Prescott senior Jessica Heinsch hits an approach shot from the fairway at the Pheasant Hills Golf Course during the 2021 sectional golf tournament. Heinsch shot an 80 at the tournament, which was tied for the third-best individual score out of 48 competitors. Photo by Reagan Hoverman
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Seniors Liz Rohl and Jessica Heinsch irreplaceable for Prescott girls golf team

The Prescott girls golf team which, after two state titles and three consecutive state championship appearances, is now a dynasty, wouldn’t have been possible without the four-year contributions of seniors Liz Rohl and Jessica Heinsch, two pivotal players who helped build the Prescott girls golf program into the powerhouse that it is today.

While looking through all of the stats, awards, and conversations with people in and around the Prescott girls golf team, two words were repeatedly and universally used when talking about Rohl and Heinsch – winning and character.

The stories of the golf careers of Rohl and Heinsch began early in their freshman year of high school. Since the very moment Rohl’s golf career began, it’s been intertwined with the career of Heinsch. The first time Rohl ever touched a golf club was on the first day of practice her freshman year. Heinsch’s golfing experience began because of Rohl. According to Heinsch, on the first day of golf practice that year, she got a text from Rohl saying she should join the golf team for fun. That day, she decided she was going to become a golfer, went out and bought clubs, and showed up to practice with the rest of the girls.

In the first couple of weeks of their freshman season, both Rohl and Heinsch played varsity and JV, splitting time between each team. As the year progressed both players found their way to the varsity roster as they continually improved throughout the year. Prescott head coach Chad Salay spoke about both of them starting their freshman year as rookie golfers with little experience.

“I mean, they just put up some horrendous scores at the beginning,” Salay said in a lighthearted, joking manner. “They look back on it now, but at that stage, you just try to make it fun for them and teach them the basics. We did scrambles at practice and anything else you do with a beginner golfer to make it fun.”

Just like everyone else who has ever picked up a golf club, Rohl and Heinsch began as rookies who spent a portion of their first year just learning the basics of the game. However, Salay stated that once both players got the hang of the game, the scores began to drop, and at the start of their sophomore year, legitimate competition golf was quickly on their minds. Rohl spoke about her experience as a freshman on the golf team.

“As I think back now, I believe it was very beneficial for me and my game in upcoming years,” Rohl said. “That freshman season was very relaxed and fun. Chad (Salay) was super laid back, but still pushed us to be our best.”

Heinsch also reflected on her freshman year experience. Specifically, how older players had a positive impact on her and how that shaped her perspective as she eventually became a more experienced player.

“During my freshman year, there were two seniors, Gigi Gangi and Laura Pryor, who helped welcome us freshmen into the sport. They included us in everything, whether that be having fun at meets or taking us to practice every day. Learning from those seniors, I made it a priority to welcome incoming freshmen this year and make this sport and our golf team feel like family to them.”

The fantastic players that Rohl and Heinsch ended up becoming had those seeds planted during their freshman year. That season there were no expectations to win or perform at a very high level. However, Rohl and Heinsch were two of the five players who helped that team qualify for sectionals for the first time under the direction of Chad Salay. He spoke about that moment being a turning point back when Rohl and Heinsch were still freshmen.

“This crew with Liz and Jess and a couple of older girls qualified for sectionals,” Salay said. “That was a huge indicator that these girls improved a ton. We surprised a bunch of teams by sliding into that fourth spot. It was a good experience, and it was a turning point.”

When their sophomore year began, suddenly they were no longer a bottom-tier program. Players were getting better, Ava Salay was added to the starting lineup, and suddenly, there was a competitive roster for Prescott girls golf for the first time in a long time.

According to Rohl, the players on the team during that sophomore season all knew that something special had been born at the end of that freshman year. The sophomore season was their chance to expand on it and take it to the next level.

Both Rohl and Heinsch stated that getting to play in high-pressure situations like the regional, sectional and state tournament during their sophomore year was beneficial for them as they got older and continued to play in more high-pressure situations.

“The state tournament was very high pressure each year,” Heinsch said. “At state my sophomore year, I had never performed under super high pressure, so I didn’t know what to expect. As I continued to play over the years, I learned how to play under pressure and focus on relaxing and playing my game.”

Chad Salay noted that each offseason, both Rohl’s and Heinsch’s scores continued to drop as they spent time working on their game at the range, in offseason programming or with a swing coach. Those lower scores from Rohl and Heinsch were a driving factor in the team’s first girls golf state championship in school history, which they won their junior year. Heinsch spoke about what she believes led to the state title.

“We became close and started to bond (as a team) during my junior year,” Heinsch said. “We spent endless hours with each other both on and off the course and we all became best friends. I think being close as a team really pushed us all to work together to become the best we could which is what led us to win regionals, sectionals and state.”

Rohl also spoke about winning that first title as a team and capturing a dream that she had since she was a kid.

“Ever since I was a little kid and watched the boys basketball team go to state multiple times, I always wanted to come home with a gold ball. When I got off the final green that day, that dream came true. Hoisting up that trophy was something special, not only for me but for the team and the community.”

That junior season state championship was unlike any other championship in girls’ golf history. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted how the girls could go to school. According to Heinsch, the golf team decided to do remote/online learning for the fall semester so that they wouldn’t potentially be exposed to COVID19, which would have forced them to sit out of important tournaments. That sacrifice was just one of many factors that contributed to an outstanding season that culminated in a state championship at Blackwolf Run in Kohler.

Near the end of that tournament, when Prescott had a large lead and it was clear that they were going to win the state championship, Rohl stated that she had the defining moment of her career with coach Darren Reiter.

“When we had a strong lead in the 2020 state championship coach Darren Reiter was helping me hit my tee shot,” Rohl said. “When we got up to the ball so I could hit my approach shot Darren hugged me and said, ‘Liz Rohl, looks like you’re a state champion.’ Those words meant so much to me in that moment. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled more than I did right there.”

Going into the 2021 season, their senior year, Heinsch adopted the mentality of “one last ride.” It was one more opportunity for the varsity seniors to leave their mark on the program and continue to build a tradition of winning at Prescott.

The 2020 Prescott state championship team was one of the rare high school sports teams that wins a championship and doesn’t graduate any starting seniors. The expectation was to make another deep playoff run and potentially win another state championship.

The roster of Ava Salay, Liz Rohl, Rhi Stutz, Jessica Heinsch and Maddie Reiter dominated the 2021 conference schedule, winning a third consecutive Middle Border Conference Championship, as well as their third straight regional and sectional championships. At the state championship, which was back at University Ridge in Madison for the first time since 2019, Prescott put its talent on display for the whole state to see.

The Cardinals won the Division 2 state golf tournament by a mind-boggling 49-shot margin over the second-place Saint Croix Central Panthers. The dominance was impressive, even for a program that had crafted a tradition of excellence. Both Rohl and Heinsch reflected on winning a state title in their senior season and finishing their career on the summit of the high school golf mountain.

“Knowing that it was my last season, there was no other way I wanted to end it,” Rohl said. “Not only was winning for a second time an absolute blast but spending five days with my best friends was the greatest way to end my high school golf career.”

“The feeling walking off the course in Madison after the state tournament was honestly indescribable,” Heinsch said. “I was overwhelmed with emotions because I couldn’t believe we were back-to-back state champions at the end of four amazing years. I know as a player I wouldn’t be where I am today without my teammates and coaches.”

Both Rohl and Heinsch spoke about some of their favorite memories being the junior and senior state golf tournaments. Not only winning state titles but spending time with the team for days on end, which added to the family-like feeling of the roster.

Each player spoke of how thankful they are for the coaching staff, the teammates, best friends, fans and community of Prescott for helping forge them into the players and people that they are today.

“I would sum up playing for Prescott as one of my best decisions in life because it opened up so many amazing opportunities for me and helped shape me into the person I am today,” Heinsch said. Rohl shared a similar sentiment. “I just wanted to add a big thank you to my teammates, coaches and family. Without any of them, there is no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without their constant support.”

Of course, the play on the course is important, and without Rohl and Heinsch those state titles almost certainly don’t happen. However, coach Chad Salay stated that what they brought to the team in terms of leadership, character and off-the-course ability was just as important.

“Jess brings a great attitude to our team, she’s the lighthearted, funny and happy person on the team,” Chad Salay said. “She can take everything down a notch when it starts getting intense. That’s one of the reasons she was a great addition to our team for so many years. That’s something you can’t coach and not all teams have a personality like that.”

While Heinsch was able to keep things lighthearted, Salay described Rohl as the leader of the team who was responsible for doing what the coaches couldn’t. She would call players-only meetings, would talk to all of the girls before meets and took it upon herself to be a leader.

“Liz is the leader of our team, she’s been our captain for years,” Salay said. “She has all those qualities of getting those girls focused when they needed to. A lot of times I’m not there for the warmup or ride to the event, so I told Liz, ‘You need to get these girls focused.’ And she knows that. She is going to be sorely missed. You don’t have many kids that will do that.”

In the future, Rohl will be playing college golf at the University of Wisconsin-Stout where she hopes to carry on a championship legacy. As for Heinsch, she hasn’t ruled out playing college golf. She is focused on choosing a campus that feels like “home” for her. If she can play for their golf team then she will. But Heinsch won’t have golf determine where she goes to college.

The legacy of Rohl and Heinsch at Prescott has been forever cemented with two state championships, multiple regional and sectional championships, conference titles and the tradition of winning that they helped build in their four years of high school golf at Prescott.

When they got to the program, it was a young, struggling golf school. Now, as they depart as senior graduates, they organically built the best Division 2 golf program in the state of Wisconsin, in large part due to the hard work and continued excellence of Rohl and Heinsch. They are irreplaceable.


Liz Rohl hits her tee shot on the second day of the 2021 state golf tournament at the University Ridge Golf Course in Madison. Rohl shot an 87 on the first day of the tournament and an 84 on the second day. Her score gave her a 7th place finish as an individual at the tournament which helped propel Prescott to another state title.Photo by Reagan Hoverman

November 3, 2021