Empire duo stays linked with golf


Sonoma Valley High graduate Brooke Dagner, left and Middletown alumnus Lisa Copeland saw their careers travel in parallel paths while competing at the Junior, high school and college levels. (Photo by Paige Dagner)

Sonoma Valley High graduate Brooke Dagner, left and Middletown alumnus Lisa Copeland saw their careers travel in parallel paths while competing at the Junior, high school and college levels. (Photo by Paige Dagner)

Out on the rolling terrain of a Lincoln, Nebraska, golf course this past May, two top Empire women’s golfers met once again as they have since beginning a friendly competition in juniors’ tournaments when they played in Sonoma County.

After reaching a small college golf national championship’s final round, Lisa Copeland and Brooke Dagner offered encouragement and enjoyed the moment. Close on the scoreboard yet again, the pair capped college careers with strong play.

“We text throughout the year and get to see each other,” Copeland said. “To be able to have her as a friend in college golf and to finish together is pretty cool.”

Dagner was a few shots better, helping Lewis-Clark State, of Idaho, edge Cal State San Marcos and Copeland down the leaderboard at the 2014 NAIA Women’s Golf National Championship.

“It was pretty fun,” Dagner said. “It’s just nice to have a girlfriend who plays golf.”

Golf took them to the far corners of the West, yet a shared love for the game growing up on Empire courses kept the two close. Both took up the game at age 8, with Copeland joining her father on the links and Dagner learning alongside her grandfather.

Junior’s tournaments brought Copeland and Dagner together as young teenagers. They would improve to become All-Empire Co-Players of the Year in 2009 as high school seniors after Copeland took the honor a year earlier.

“It was awesome. We obviously had a lot of potential,” Copeland said.

Hidden Valley Lake is Copeland’s home course. At Middletown High, with no girls’ team, she twice qualified for the CIF NorCal finals out of three appearances in the North Coast Section Tournament of Champions.

Sonoma Golf Club is Dagner’s home course. At Sonoma Valley High, she also competed in three NCS championships.

So parallel were their paths that the two earned scholarships to play at NAIA programs.

Making adjustments to the college game both settled among leading scorers on their teams that first year.

“You have to be a lot more focused, a lot more consistent,” Dagner said. “I definitely had to work at it.”

Cal State San Marcos, with Copeland among the team’s best, reached the NAIA national championships three straight seasons. Lewis-Clark State qualified for nationals in Dagner’s final two seasons.

As seniors, Copeland and Dagner helped younger teammates make the transition to the college game.

“There definitely were some ups and downs. By the end of everything it was a very good year,” Copeland said.

Among the challenges for Cal State San Marcos was preparing for the national championships with massive wildfires burning on the edges of town for days on end.

“It was pretty stressful,” Copeland said. Lewis-Clark State went into nationals with a second consecutive conference title.

“It was a lot of fun. Everything came together,” Dagner said. “It was a great season individually and as a team.”

Along the way both players were reminded why they love the game.

While neither is attempting a professional career, they will seek top-level amateur tournaments.

“I still love the pressure and I love being competitive. But to play at the next level is a big-time commitment,” Copeland said. “It’s a game for me and I really love to play it. I don’t want it to be a job.”

With a year remaining in college, Copeland is looking forward to a career in finance.

“I’ll go anywhere in the world, wherever life takes me,” she said. Dagner recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality with a business minor. She might stay with the game in professional golf management, requiring more school and an apprenticeship.

“Being able to play college golf was great. I don’t want it to really end,” Dagner said. “Part of golf is you want to prove to yourself that you can always keep getting better.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

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