Lexi Harkins had Wisconsin near the top of her college wish list as a rising golfer in high school. The 2014 Crystal Lake Central graduate chose to play year round at North Carolina instead.
Three years later, the Crystal Lake native has a chance to compete closer to home in Madison, Wisconsin.
Harkins, who has played the last three seasons with the Tar Heels, is transferring to Wisconsin for her senior season. She is eligible to play for the Badgers immediately, according to a news release at uwbadgers.com.
Harkins, a three-time Northwest Herald Girls Golfer of the Year, said she made her decision to transfer to Wisconsin near the end of her junior year at Chapel Hill.
"Basically, I just wanted to be closer to home and graduate from a great university," Harkins said. "You learn a lot about yourself in three years, and being away from home was a new experience for me. It was a great three years at North Carolina, but I was ready to come back."
Harkins was UNC's top finisher at the NCAA Championships last season, tying for 24th overall. She played in 33 tournaments for the Tar Heels and owns a 75.35 career scoring average. Her scoring average has dropped each year, including 74.67 strokes per round as a junior.
Harkins will join incoming freshman and Spring Grove's Mackenzie Hahn, a two-time Northwest Herald Girls Golfer of the Year at Richmond-Burton. Jordan Hahn, a 2015 R-B graduate, also is at Wisconsin on the men's team.
All three belong to Bull Valley Country Club, and Harkins said the familiarity with many of the players at Wisconsin – including the Hahns – was a factor in her decision to transfer.
"I really just love the culture of the golf team," Harkins said. "I think they have a really good team dynamic. I know a lot of the girls from both college and junior golf, and I respect the coach (Todd Oehrlein) a lot. With the returning golfers and the newcomers, we have a great opportunity."
North Carolina qualified for NCAA Regional play in all three of Harkins' seasons. Wisconsin made it to an NCAA regional for the fifth time in the past seven years and is a regional host this season.
"I feel like I’ve been playing pretty well this summer, and overall my scoring average has been dropping every year," Harkins said. "There’s always room for improvement, but I think it's in a pretty good place right now. I'm excited for the opportunity at Wisconsin."
Harkins competed in the 117th Women’s Western Amateur Tournament at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst in mid-June, placing 10th in stroke play and advancing to the Round of 32 in match play.
On Aug. 21, she'll play in an LPGA Tour Stage 1 Qualifier at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California. Golfers must make it through three qualifying stages in order to earn LPGA Tour status.