McFarland High School girls’ golf team junior Annie Culver could feel the pressure as she prepared to tee off in a sudden death playoff in the 2009 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division 2 sectional at Trapper’s Turn in Wisconsin Dells.
Culver and two other players were tied for the third qualifying spot that would get them into the state tournament at University Ridge Golf Course.
She was about to take on a hole that was very challenging: a lot of water, a lot of fescue and other obstacles that could be heartbreaking.
“Normally I’m not very good under pressure,” said Culver. “It is a very intimidating hole.”
She chose to take a more conservative approach at the tee and use her hybrid club rather than a driver.
The result was a drive shorter than her competitors, who found themselves in trouble with the water.
“I don’t know what came over me but it did. My second shot was right on the green and I had an easy two-putt,” said Culver, who won the playoff. “My family and teammates were there. It was getting dark, but it was all worth it in the end to celebrate with my teammates and my family after that last nerve-racking hole.”
It would mark the first of two trips Culver would make to state.
All those practice sessions with her father Jerry and Derek Schnarr, a golf pro at the Vitense Golf Center, had paid off.
She understood the merits of hard work, how it can open doors and help achieve your dreams.
A bond established
Jerry Culver, a golf enthusiast much of his life, was very excited when his daughter Annie wanted to take up golf during her middle school years.
She was already devoted to basketball, but quickly fell in love with the art of hitting a small, dimpled ball hundreds of yards toward a hole about the size of a coffee cup.
“I had somewhat of a natural ability,” Culver said. “I wasn’t shooting in the 80s right away, so he was very patient and kind with me starting out. He was very excited to have something to bond over.”
Schnarr also detected the flaws with her golf swing and made corrections when necessary.
“My father and I really liked him,” Culver said. “He would videotape me and pinpoint exactly where I was going wrong. He straightened me out pretty well. He was a very good teacher.”
Mike Eversoll doubled as her basketball and golf coach in her freshman year at McFarland.
In Culver’s sophomore year, Michelle Pfohl, took over as head coach and became a positive influence.
“She was a nurturing soul,” Culver said. “She just helped me blossom from there.”
Culver was nervous in her first trip to state in 2009. She was familiar with University Ridge and played practice rounds at the course. But there were some things she had not experienced before.
“The first hole, you get your name announced and everyone’s attention is on you,” Culver said.
She finished with a 36-hole total of 179 and tied for 13th place, a great effort in such a high-profile match. But Culver wasn’t satisfied.
“I’m never content with myself, and I always feel I can do better,” she said. “As a junior, I was happy to make it there. My goal was to make it back my senior year and do better.”
In 2010, Culver was hoping McFarland would qualify for the state tournament as a team. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but with one state tournament under her belt, she was a little more relaxed the second time.
“I was a senior just trying to enjoy myself,” Culver said. “I was just trying to be mindful and present, and enjoy the whole experience.”
Culver improved significantly from 2009 by shooting a 165 and ending in a tie for ninth place.
Coach, teacher serve as mentors
Aside from golf, Culver also played on the girls’ basketball team under head coach Eversoll, a person who had considerable influence on her and her basketball abilities.
“He was a very big mentor, and knowledgeable of the game,” she said. “He really believed in me when I didn’t really believe in me.”
She played in 61 varsity games and averaged 3.3 points a game. The 5-foot-10 forward/guard also hit 38 shots from the 3-point arc. In Culver’s sophomore and junior years of 2009-10, the Spartans won the first two rounds of the WIAA Division 2 tournament.
Culver also credits McFarland High School biology teacher Terri Plautz with putting on the path to her current occupation as an occupational therapist.
“She made her classes fun and easy to understand,” she said. “I really wanted to take that further and make that my career. She helped me pick colleges.”
After graduating high school in 2011, Culver enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. Yet, she had no desire to play college sports.
“I decided to be a normal person,” she said. “All my summers and weekends consisted of basketball or golf. Although I did well in my athletic career, I realized sports can only get you so far. I knew it was time to buckle down and focus on getting a career going and getting my life started.”
Culver graduated from La Crosse in 2015 with a major in biology and a minor in psychology. After that, she attended Creighton University and earned her doctorate.
Culver started out her career at Life Care Centers of America in Kansas City.
In July, she moved to Ventura, California and now works as an occupational therapist at the Community Memorial Health System.
She teaches people with disabilities how to live a normal life, and instructs amputees on how to use a prosthetic and do all the activities of daily living.
“Basically, I try to get people as independent as possible,” Culver said.
As she looks back on her athletic career at McFarland, Culver credits sports with teaching her a lot of concepts that she now uses as a working adult such as teamwork, discipline and dealing with the uncertainties of life.
“It’s up to you to uphold the rules and play fairly,” she said. “I am constantly working with other doctors and nurses, trying to coordinate with everyone and build trust and relationships.”