WIAA state girls golf: Stoughton’s Caylie Kotlowski one stroke back after first day in Division 1
Back when she was young — this was two, maybe three weeks ago — Caylie Kotlowski would have thrown caution to the wind.
“Just grip it and rip it and see where it goes,” the Stoughton sophomore golfer said with a smile.
But Kotlowski is a veteran now. After picking up the game “about two years ago,” she liked nothing better than to see how far — and not necessarily how straight — she could hit her tee or fairway shots.
Those days are over. Today, Kotlowski is into course management. And it carried her to an astounding round of 1-over-par 73 during Monday’s opening round of the two-day WIAA state tournament on a soggy, foggy and full-of-trouble University Ridge Golf Course layout.
Kotlowski finished her first state tournament round in a three-way tie for second place in Division 1, one shot behind Bay Port’s Jo Baranczyk. Through 13 holes, though, Kotlowski stood at 2-under, thanks to three birdies (on Nos. 4, 9 and 11) against a bogey on No. 3 and nine pars.
“These last couple of tournaments, I’ve played a little bit more smart,” said Kotlowski, who has been working on her game with Cherokee Country Club professional Larry Tiziani. “(Stuff like) going up on a par-5 and not going for it every time. I’ve gotten a lot better with my course management.
“If it’s open, I’ll smack it. But I’ve gotten a lot better at placing it since (the Badger South) Conference (meet).”
Stephen Stokes, Stoughton’s second-year coach, marveled at how the tough conditions and high stakes didn’t faze her.
“She didn’t come out with any nerves. She was always relaxed, even on the first tee. She was in the zone,” Stokes said. “Even after she had those two hiccups (a double-bogey 6 on No. 14 and a bogey 6 on No. 16), she battled back with pars.”
Today, due to expected inclement weather, the tournament’s final round will begin with a 9 a.m. shotgun start — meaning players will tee off simultaneously on each of the 18 holes. And Kotlowski will be battling big-name opponents such as Baranczyk (fifth last year) and Hartland Arrowhead senior and University of Wisconsin recruit Emily Lauterbach (third last year, first in 2016).
Also tied for second at 1-over 73 is Rachel Kauflin of Wauwatosa East/West.
Perennial tournament contender Middleton battled to second place with a five-player score of 46-over-par 334. That left the Cardinals 16 strokes behind top-ranked Wales Kettle Moraine (318), and three strokes ahead of defending champ Hartland Arrowhead (337).
Waunakee tied for fifth at 64-over 352, led by Elena Maier’s 86, and Milton was ninth in the 10-team field at 72-over 360, led by Taylor Hakala’s 82.
Middleton was led by junior Kate Meier, who made two difficult putts to earn back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 on her second nine, after getting her first on No. 17. She finished at 6-over 78, good for a sixth-place tie.
“I definitely knew they could do it, but it was not something I was expecting,” said Middleton coach Becky Halverson, whose team took eighth at state last year and second in 2016 after winning in 2015.
“I’m very proud of the girls. We have a young team, not much experience,” said Meier, whose teammates include another junior, a senior, a sophomore and a freshman. “They were able to play through their nerves on a really long round … (and keep their) confidence on every shot.”
Mouse and the nut
It was Lauterbach who had the craziest day of all. She said she had two shots plug into mud on the soaking-wet fairways, and one putt stopped on the lip of the cup. And then there were the tales of the mouse and the walnut.
On No. 6, Lauterbach struck a putt, only to have a mouse — some said it might have been a mole or vole — run into the ball’s path and send it caroming away from the hole. The tiny animal first tried to hide in the cup and eventually scampered off, seemingly unharmed.
“I didn’t practice for that,” said Lauterbach, who later had to present her case to a rules official to avoid being assessed a two-stroke penalty.
Then, on No. 9 — her final hole — she sent an approach shot into the sand trap where it came to rest in contact with a walnut, one of many that had fallen off an adjacent tree and into the trap.
After a rules official said she had to play her shot without touching or moving the walnut, which rested directly in the way of her shot, Lauterbach pulled out her wedge and hit a beautiful shot that checked up a foot from the hole, saving her par.
“I think it actually helped me get more spin on the ball,” said Lauterbach, who shot 73.
Not many teams are younger than Madison Edgewood, with a lineup of three juniors and two sophomores. But thanks to a crew led by Grace Welch, Grace Jaeger and Caitlyn Hegenbarth, the Crusaders shot a 45-over 333 to take a 23-stroke lead over Appleton Xavier (356).
Welch, who took fifth last year and third in 2016, led the Crusaders with a steady, birdie-less round of 78. She double-bogeyed her first hole, but had 13 pars and four bogeys the rest of the way.
“After that double, I just kept it steady,” Welch said. “I felt really good with pars.”
Jaeger, a sophomore who is Edgewood’s No. 4 player, also started with a double bogey but later had a birdie and finished with an 82. Hegenbarth, a sophomore, shot 84 and junior Anaka Leske shot 89.
“I had a good day (Sunday) at practice, and that made me very confident for today,” Jaeger said.
“Grace Jaeger was on fire,” Edgewood coach Peggy Gierhart said. “We’ve been doing this all year — all five girls are capable of going low, and someone always steps up for us.”