116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Bella Pettersen isn’t concerned with being the center of attention.
Iowa City Liberty’s standout golfer commands notice with her talent and friendly demeanor. She would prefer to let her golf do all the talking, according to Lightning Coach Brian Wernimont.
One topic she doesn’t shy away from addressing is her battle with arthritis and the challenges to play a sport that can create stress and strain on joints and muscles with each swing. Pettersen is determined to conquer the affliction.
“I’m open about it but I don’t want it to define who I am,” Pettersen said. “I want to overcome it and be the person I want to be.”
Pettersen has already proven herself as one of the best golfers in the state. She will attempt another high finish at the Class 4A girls’ state golf meet Thursday and Friday at Otter Creek Golf Course in Ankeny. The two-time Mississippi Valley Conference Mississippi Division Player of the Year was third at state last year as a freshman.
“With all the adversity that she’s had, she finds a way to win,” Wernimont said. “Right now, that’s a good place for her to be.
“She wants to get back to the top. She’s had some strikes against her this season.”
Arthritis has been one of those obstructions to manage during a spring that was dominated by colder, windier and wetter weather. She recalled an earlier meet in the cold rain at Gardner Golf Course that her pain forced her to abandon her round.
“I hurt so bad that my leg was shaking,” Pettersen said of a painful hip that she overcame for medalist honors at the MVC divisional in her return to that course. “I told my coach, and I have never had to tell him this before, I couldn’t finish. I had to walk off the course.
“It was devastating to me. I usually don’t let it get to me.”
A strong competitive nature that borders on perfectionism powers her game. She has a strong work ethic, often practicing for hours after competition to correct mistakes during the round.
“I think the fact that she’s fought the health battles that she has makes her a fighter from the get-go,” Wernimont said. “Obviously, she’s a very accomplished player. For her to overcome some obstacles doesn’t seem to be a big deal for her. It’s just something else that she has to deal with.
“She is going to do what it takes to get to the winner’s circle. We’ve seen that this year, even with some adversity, she finds a way to win.”
Pettersen isn’t the only member of her family to deal with the ailment. Her older sister, Madasyn, was considered a golf prodigy. She was just 15 when she won an Illinois high school state title and even became the youngest to win the Illinois Women’s Open. Madasyn received scholarship offers from NCAA Division I programs.
Then, the older Pettersen began to experience severe pain. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which caused severe arthritis in her lower body.
“My sister was ranked 46th in the world and got it out of nowhere, too,” Pettersen said. “I was 15 when it was diagnosed and ever since it has been a battle. I just work around it. I just try to get better with it.”
Pettersen enters the state meet ranked third in 18-hole average (73), 18-hole adjusted average (75.73) and combined adjusted average (38.74). She qualified as regional medalist, posting a 70 at Irv Warren Golf Course in Waterloo.
Pettersen is a strong hitter, but she’s at her best when her short game is good. Successful chipping and putting powers her best scores and something she is focused on for the final two days.
“I’m going to put in about 20 hours of putting and I’m going to get it down this year,” Pettersen said. “Last year, my putting was really bad at state, so I definitely want to make a (personal record) there.”
The MVC will be well-represented at state. In addition to Pettersen, Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Addie Berg, Cedar Rapids Washington’s Jane Petersen and Iowa City West’s Leigha Pacha will compete in 4A. Linn-Mar, Western Dubuque and Cedar Falls are in the team race. Dubuque Wahlert is in the 3A field, while Cedar Rapids Xavier’s Meera Julka qualified for the 3A tournament.
Berg also ranks among the top 4A players, tying for 14th in the 4A meet last year. She is fifth in 18-hole adjusted average with 78.28. Berg was the runner-up regional medalist, placing behind Marshalltown’s second-ranked Amber Henson at Elmwood Country Club.
“Addie has as good a chance as anybody,” Prairie Coach Erik Columbus said. “She has been driving the ball well and putting with confidence. Her experience playing at state on the same course as last year will be helpful.”
Iowa high school girls’ state golf meet
CLASS 4A: At Ankeny (Otter Creek Golf Course)
Teams – Ankeny Centennial, Bettendorf, Cedar Falls, Linn-Mar, Marshalltown, Pleasant Valley, Southeast Polk, Waukee Northwest, West Des Moines Valley, Western Dubuque.
Other Gazette-area individuals – Addie Berg, Cedar Rapids Prairie; Bella Pettersen, Iowa City Liberty; Jane Petersen, Cedar Rapids Washington, Leigha Pacha, Iowa City West.
CLASS 3A: At Adel (River Valley Golf Course)
Teams – Adel ADM, Clear Lake, Dubuque Wahlert, Gilbert, Humboldt, Lisbon, Sioux Center, Solon, Washington (Iowa), West Delaware.
Other Gazette-area individuals – Meera Julka, Cedar Rapids Xavier.
CLASS 2A: At Cedar Falls (Pheasant Ridge Golf Course)
Teams – Anamosa, Dike-New Hartford, Garner GHV, Mid-Prairie, New Hampton, Roland-Story, Sumner-Fredericksburg, Treynor, Van Meter, Williamsburg.
Other Gazette-area individuals – Jaelyn Aitchison, Monticello; Maddie Schmitz, Dyersville Beckman; Shea Steffen, Dyersville Beckman.
CLASS 1A: At Marshalltown (American Legion Golf Course)
Teams – Akron-Westfield, Algona Garrigan, Central Lyon, Conrad BCLUW, Council Bluffs St. Albert, Grundy Center, New London, Newell-Fonda, Sigourney, West Branch.
Other Gazette-area individuals – Grace Matus, Springville; Jaden Smith, Iowa Valley; Molly Vogeler, North Tama; Samantha Ahrendsen, Alburnett.