Vindication For Payson Birkeland, State Champ Again
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Sioux Falls O’Gorman, West Central, and Burke claimed state championships in girls golf on Tuesday, while James Valley Christian took home the title in Class B Boys.
Aberdeen played host to the Girls Class A tournament, which witnessed a familiar individual standing atop the podium at the end of the event – Payson Birkeland of Belle Fourche. Birkeland technically placed second last year, but was bumped up to the first place spot when Kate Wynja of Sioux Falls Christian was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
The mistake by Wynja not only cost her the individual title, but it also dropped Sioux Falls Christian out of first in the team standings. Birkeland had just won a state championship, but nobody was talking about her, they were only talking about Wynja. If there was ever better fuel for motivation going into the 2019 season for Birkeland, this was it - her chance to prove that even though a rule technicality awarded her with a state title, she herself, was not a fluke.
Birkeland finished the 2019 state tournament in Aberdeen on Tuesday at nine-over-par, a three stroke advantage over Lauren Tims of Sioux Falls Christian, and a four stroke lead over Kelsey Heath of Sisseton and Mya Maxwell of Madison.
The Belle Fourche senior said she came into the state tournament this year wanting to make a statement, and now that’s it over, she’s overcome with joy.
"It’s incredible for me, because I’m not only playing for myself, I’m representing Belle Fourche, I’m representing west river even. I’ve got my brothers back home cheering, they’re out working today and my mom is working right now. I’m playing for all of them, it’s not just me," explained Birkeland. "To be able to come out and do this, it means the world to me, because it proves that I deserve to be here, and all the work I’ve put in has really paid off. Everyone kept saying ‘make west river proud,’ so that is what I was trying to do."
Next year, Birkeland will evolve from a Bronc to a Cowboy when she attends the University of Wyoming - a school she is committed to playing women's golf for. On top of that, she wants to study to become a nurse.