Prep girls golf: Milton’s Taylor Hakala and Claudia Seeman seek consistent improvement in the face of frequent changes
Taylor Hakala and Claudia Seeman know that for the past several years, the Milton girls golf program has been the epitome of consistency on the course — though not necessarily off the course.
Each of the last three seasons, the Red Hawks qualified for the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. They earned a runner-up finish last year.
Hakala, a senior, competed in all three of those state tournaments; Seeman, a junior, battled University Ridge Golf Course for the last two. Both have been integral parts of the program since they were freshmen.
But this year feels different.
The Red Hawks no longer have Mia Seeman, last year’s individual state champion and Claudia’s sister, who has moved on to play at South Dakota State.
And there are two brand-new co-head coaches, Ashton Stair and Brady Farnsworth. They took over after last year’s coach, Kirk Wieland, announced a leave of absence just weeks before the season started — and three seasons after he took over for his wife, Andrea, when she was named head coach at UW-Whitewater after 12 years at Milton.
Those changes leave Hakala (15th at state last year) and Seeman (29th last year) as the most experienced members of the Red Hawks’ program.
Even after all the changes, so far the Red Hawks have compiled another impressive set of tournament finishes. Milton finished sixth in the Madison Edgewood Invitational at Yahara Hills on Aug. 10, fourth in the Crusade Fore a Cure event at Maple Bluff on Aug. 27 and first in the Janesville Parker Invitational at Riverside Golf Course on Sept. 15.
Hakala shot 75 at Janesville Parker to win the invite. Seeman shot 76 to place second.
“(This season) is definitely different,” Seeman said. “I feel like the girls kind of look up to me and Taylor now. We all get along, so it’s nice.”
Although golf is at its core a individual sport, Hakala’s and Seeman’s low scores drive the Milton’s team overall success. Players and coaches said the team camaraderie instilled by the former coaches, the Wielands, remains paramount.
“It’s very much an individual sport, but it’s also extremely important to be supportive of one another, and that has helped us be successful,” Stair said.
“Kirk and Andrea were the backbone of this program,” said Farnsworth, who was coached at Milton by Kirk Wieland. “The reason the girls are the way they are is because of them, honestly. They take the golfers from the youth program and develop them all the way through.”
Hakala said she has played at Oak Ridge Golf Course in Milton, owned by the Wielands, since she was four years old. She also credited Seeman’s constant improvement as a helpful driving force to her game.
“We share golf balls all the time on the range, we help each other with our swings or putting,” Hakala said. “It’s great to see her shooting the lower numbers. We play a lot together and both really love playing with each other, so that motivates the both of us.”
With the Badger Conference meet postponed until Monday and WIAA regionals starting Wednesday, Stair — who won a WIAA state championship in 2011 at Milton — is stressing the theme of consistency once again. She said she focuses on helping the girls stay positive after a bad shot or hole, and lifting each other up when they are down.
“One of my biggest things to trying to target the mental game. Especially for females, it’s a very mentally difficult game, and that’s something that people coming in often don’t understand,” Stair said.
Milton won the Janesville Craig regional last season, with Hakala finishing second overall and Seeman fourth. Stair said she believes the Red Hawks have improved steadily throughout the season and have the talent and work ethic to compete for the top spot at the Janesville Parker regional this week.
“(Hakala and Seeman) are both very consistent golfers. Every once in while you’ll have a bad round; that’s golf. They do a very good job of bouncing back from those inconsistencies,” Stair said. “They come prepared for practice every day and are willing to put in the time. That’s what we’re going to need is that motivation to improve and go all the way.”
Hakala, who has committed to play at South Dakota next year, echoes her coach. She said the Red Hawks need to keep grinding one tournament at a time in order to make it back to state success.
“We just need to keep on pounding golf balls,” Hakala said. “It’s repetition. Every minute you can just get out here, just get out and improve on whatever you can.”