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Dakota Wesleyan's April Barnett sinks a putt on the front nine at Wild Oak Golf Club during the Great Plains Athletic Conference Qualifier No. 1 Tuesday. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan's April Barnett sinks a putt on the front nine at Wild Oak Golf Club during the Great Plains Athletic Conference Qualifier No. 1 Tuesday. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

DWU women score top marks at 1st GPAC qualifier

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sports Mitchell, 57301
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

The Dakota Wesleyan University women's golf team is already ahead of last year's pace, and coach Adam Anderson couldn't be happier.

Last year, the Tigers won the Great Plains Athletic Conference title by 71 strokes and Lauren Fitts, Chelsea Burback and Jenna Winckler took the top three spots, while Talia Peters was ninth in the conference at the end of the season.

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Tuesday, DWU hosted the first qualifier of the year at Wild Oak Golf Club and all five golfers -- Burback, Fitts, Winckler, Peters and April Barnett -- finished in the top 10. The five golfers each shot a 40 or better on the front nine.

"I'm proud of the way we played today," Anderson said Tuesday. "We wanted to get out to a good start and not have a lot of blow-up holes where huge scores can hurt us."

In the four-qualifier conference race, Burback has given herself a three-stroke lead over second-place Fitts. Burback recorded a 75 to claim the individual title Tuesday. Barnett tied for seventh with an 81, while Winckler and Peters finished in a 10th-place tie with 82s.

"The girls are so used to Wild Oak and we've been practicing out there a lot, specifically to get ready for this tournament," said Anderson, whose team has claimed the GPAC crown for five straight years. "We worked on a lot of individual things heading into this one. I've been having the girls practicing on the yardages we'd be playing at today to work on the shots they need to hit every time."

The Tigers shot a 316 to top Northwestern's 328, building up a 12-stroke lead heading into the the second qualifier.

"Northwestern played well, too," Anderson said. "I heard that's one of the best rounds they've shot in program history, and if that's the case, to be ahead by 12 is pretty good. Hopefully, we can keep that going."

DWU looks to extend its 12-stroke lead at the second qualifier Oct. 2 in Sioux City, Iowa. But the Tigers' next action is Saturday at Briar Cliff University in North Sioux City.

NOTES -- Fitts is the reigning GPAC golfer of the year. ... The win was DWU's first team win of the season.

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Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.
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