WIAA state girls golf: Madison Edgewood rolls to Division 2 championship
They endured a soggy, muggy round that opened with a shotgun start and ground on and on, well past the six-hour mark.
They battled pesky nerves, managed high expectations and stood tall against the state’s strongest competition.
As rain threatened to fall on the putting green-turned-awards stand at University Ridge Golf Course on Tuesday evening, something finally came along that froze the Madison Edgewood girls golf team in its tracks.
It was a tiny green snake.
Never mind that the Crusaders were nothing less than world-beaters on the course, shooting the day’s second-best round in either division — a four-player score of 38-over-par 326. That gave Edgewood a two-day total of 659 and a whopping 60-stroke victory over Division 2 runner-up Appleton Xavier.
But after being introduced and receiving their medals and trophy, the Crusaders were ushered to the side of the green to pose for photos. And that’s where the snake sent the three juniors and two sophomores into a tizzy.
While most of the players skittishly slid out of the way, one — junior Anaka Leske — kneeled down to say hello to the little reptile. Her sister, junior Alaka Leske, promptly kicked her in the butt and told her to get out of there.
“Anaka likes snakes and Alaka hates them,” said Edgewood coach Peggy Gierhart, whose team won its 14th state championship since 2001, but its first since 2014. “On the other hand, Anaka has a terrible fear of birds, so we can’t say ‘Go get that birdie’ because she might freak out.”
All foibles aside, the Crusaders — a tightly knit group that dedicated itself to hours of extra practice as the season neared its climax — delivered in a gigantic way, matching the school’s fifth-best state tournament score since 2001.
“That’s what made it so beautiful,” Gierhart said. “They really focused. The last couple weeks, they’ve worked so hard, especially on their short game (and bunker game). They were very self-motivated.”
At the top of this list was Grace Jaeger, Edgewood’s No. 4 player. Gierhart and Jaeger’s teammates gushed over the sophomore’s Monday round of 82. But on Tuesday, she stood at even par until running into trouble on the final four holes, finishing with a 76.
That allowed Jaeger to tie Edgewood’s No. 1, junior Grace Welch, for third place at 14-over 158. Right behind at 159 was sophomore Caitlyn Hegenbarth, who shot a team-best 75 on Tuesday.
“I just kept my head high, forgot about any bad holes I had, and concentrated on the next hole,” said Jaeger, who earned birdies on Nos. 5, 6 and 16.
“It was a great transformation … for Grace,” Gierhart said. “She’s been nervous about state, so we were worried about her. But then she wound up doing what she did.”
“At the range, it was a little rough,” Jaeger said. “I wasn’t hitting it great. It was a little scary. But once I got out there, it was OK.”
Welch, who took fifth at state last year and third in 2016, shot 80 with five bogeys on the back nine and seven pars on the front.
“On the second nine I started to learn how great Caitlyn and Grace were doing and I was … not surprised, but so happy,” Welch said. “It makes me happy to know they’re doing well. It motivates me to keep my game up.”
Anaka Leske shot 95 and Alaka Leske 102 for the Crusaders. Lakeside Lutheran freshman Maya Heckmann shot 91 to finish 12th at 178.
“They’ve bonded … we really focused,” Gierhart said. “They like to be together, so that was a big thing. You want to play well with your team and for your team.”
Tuesday’s finish included plenty of drama, as Bay Port sophomore Jo Baranczyk birdied her final hole of the day, No. 4, to edge Hartland Arrowhead senior and University of Wisconsin recruit Emily Lauterbach by one stroke. Baranczyk shot 2-under 70 for a two-day total of 2-under 142; Lauterbach also shot 70, though she was 4-under after 11 holes before taking bogeys on Nos. 12 and 15.
Middleton shot the best round of the tournament on Tuesday, a 37-over 325, to finish firmly entrenched in second place, eight strokes behind champion Kettle Moraine and 10 strokes ahead of third-place Arrowhead, the defending champ.
“It was completely beyond expectations,” said Middleton coach Becky Halverson, whose four scores shot 83 or better on Tuesday. “I knew we could do it, but maybe some of the girls didn’t believe.”
Junior Kate Meier led the way with a 5-over 77, scoring birdies on Nos. 2 and 3 and another on No. 11. Freshman Ellie Frisch, the No. 4 player, had the next-best round, an 82 — thanks to a chip-in from about 15 yards out for an eagle 3 on her final hole, No. 2.
“It was just a little chip because I got really close to the green,” Frisch said. “I had a really far drive … and then my 6-iron went farther than expected and I wound up next to the green.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Frisch said of her first state tournament. “Dealing with the pressure at state was really scary. But once you start playing, you get into a groove and shut everything else out.“
Meier, a three-time state qualifier who shot 78 on Monday, finished in fifth place as an individual at 155. “I felt like we had no pressure on us at all,” Meier said. “We just went out there and played.“
Also for Middleton, junior Makenzie Hodson and sophomore Glenna Sanderson each shot 83, with Sanderson earning two birdies and Hodson one.
Stoughton sophomore Caylie Kotlowski, who led the tournament for a while on Monday, finished in fourth place after shooting 79 on Tuesday for a 152 total.
“It didn’t go how I wanted today, but I’m still very happy,” said Kotlowski, who took four consecutive bogeys from No. 7 to No. 10. She answered with a birdie on No. 11, to go with an earlier one on No. 2.
Milton’s Taylor Hakala closed her outstanding career by taking ninth with a 75 for a total of 156. Beaver Dam’s Kendra Swanson took 13th at 161, Janesville Parker’s Sophia Dooman was 14th (163), Monona Grove’s Klairissa O’Reilly-Dye was 17th (164) and Waunakee’s Sam Soulier 20th (167).