WIAA girls golf: Meticulous practice habits help West’s Lillian Knetter build a winning all-around game
Lillian Knetter knows how to prepare for a competitive round of golf.
The Madison West senior usually wakes up early to hit range balls before catching the bus to that day’s competition. She takes copious notes and will study each course’s yardage book before she steps to the tee box to start her round.
This mental discipline, coupled with putting prowess and driving distance honed by hours of practice, has enabled Knetter to lead the Regents to the cusp of a WIAA Division 1 state tournament appearance.
The team recorded a score of 357 to finish second at last week’s regional tournament, earning a berth in Monday’s Reedsburg sectional.
“She always has a game plan for every course that she plays…she’s very analytical in her approach to the golf game,” said coach Terry Everson.
Knetter shot a 9-over-par 81 at Lake Windsor Country Club during regionals to miss sharing medalist honors with Waunakee’s Sam Soulier by one shot. Knetter’s round was aided by birdies at the 5th and 18th hole, both par-fives.
Hitting the ball long and straight is something that bodes well for Monday’s sectional tournament at Reedsburg Country Club. The par-72 layout features four par-five holes. Two of those — the 403-yard 11th hole and the 406-yard 16th hole — can be reached in two shots.
“My driver is usually the strength of my game. As long as it’s in the fairway it can be a strength,” said Knetter, who has verbally committed to Emory University in Atlanta.
Knetter qualified for the state tournament as an individual last year, tying for 36th place with a two-day total of 178 at University Ridge Golf Course. Returning to the season-ending event with her entire team — which would be a first for West since 1996 — will require solid scores by all five players.
“Everyone is going to have to play their best,” said Knetter, a team captain. “It’s definitely doable, we are peaking at the right time.”
A player’s ability to chip, pitch and putt on Reedsburg’s sloped green complexes will play a factor into who earns a bid to the state meet, an honor reserved for the top two teams and three individuals from non-qualifying schools at sectionals.
“We don’t talk about expectations, we talk about execution…They have to execute their club selection and execute their short game because the short game is where the tournament will be won or lost,” said Everson.
Knetter’s natural leadership abilities, such as stepping up at a moment’s notice to help a teammate, have been a boost for the Regents this year. Camaraderie and strong-knit relationships built over several seasons also have played a role.
“It definitely encourages me when I have people around me that I love to be with, play with and play for,” said Knetter, who also is a key player on the Regents’ soccer team.
Knetter got off to a fast start in 2018 by earning medalist honors in the Verona Invitational on Aug. 9, shooting a 4-over-par 76 in the 11-team tournament at Edelweiss Chalet Country Club in New Glarus. She topped Middleton’s Kate Meier in a scorecard playoff.
Knetter finished sixth at the Big Eight Conference meet, posting an 87, and West finished third with a team score of 387.
Regardless of Monday’s outcome, Lillian Knetter’s preparation will be unquestioned. She will have a set plan for each hole and shot. Coach Everson has no doubt.
“She is steady, she is solid and she is dependable,” Everson said.