DELL RAPIDS, S.D. — As they began posting final results following the second round of the Class A state golf meet, Sioux Falls Christian senior Kate Wynja came to a horrible realization. She had submitted an incorrect scorecard, crediting herself with a 4 on No. 18 instead of a 5.
Wynja, who had won the event by multiple strokes, understood the consequences of her mistake. She would be disqualified and stripped of her individual medalist honors. The resulting score change would also cost the Chargers their first team championship since 2011.
The punishment was devastating, but upon realizing her error, Wynja grabbed SFC coach Don Garnaas and explained the situation.
“I knew I needed to tell them,” Wynja said Tuesday night. “It was really sad, mostly because I knew what the result would be. I knew that I would be disqualified and it broke my heart for the team. But I knew I couldn’t leave without saying something.”
Wynja and her coach reported the violation to tournament directors Dan Swartos and Jeff Dvorak. The two did everything they could to find a loophole to lessen the punishment, Swartos said, but the rule was cut-and-dry.
Wynja was disqualified. Medalist honors went to Belle Fourche’s Payson Birkeland (159, 17-over). The team championship also went to the Broncs, who posted a total score of 735. Sioux Falls Christian finished second (747).
“I was heartbroken,” said Birkeland, who broke down in tears when she learned Wynja had been disqualified. “You don’t wish that one anyone, so hats off to her for being able to admit her mistake… That’s not how you want to win, but it’s humbling for everyone to learn from that situation.”
“It was awful and I feel truly awful for her,” added Swartos. “I have so much respect for Kate to come up and do that…. I cannot say enough for that young lady and how much integrity that took, and how proud I am to have kids like that in South Dakota.”
Swartos had been following the final group through the final few holes of the event, but neither he nor the marker realized Wynja had written down an incorrect score. Had she not come forward, she would have won individual medalist honors for the second year in-a-row and the Chargers would have closed out Garnaas’ final season as head coach with a team title.
“I told (Garnaas) that I was sorry for letting him down since it’s his last year,” said Wynja, who had been golfing for Garnaas since seventh grade. “I felt so bad, but he said he was just incredibly proud of me. Obviously, he was sad with how it turned out, but he was glad that I did the right thing.”
There has been an outpouring of support for Wynja on social media with teammates and competitors alike offering their support.
For her part, Wynja — who Garnaas said was back to her “bubbly self” by the time the team met for their post-round meal — said the support has helped her keep things in perspective and stay positive.
“That was a tough situation in general,” Wynja said, “(but) being surrounded by people who love me is awesome.”