Middleton golfers storm back to state

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Emmet Herb helped propel Middleton's golfers back to state on Tuesday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Joey Levin looked around and saw everyone on their cell phones. Constantly.

No one would tell Levin what was happening. So naturally, Middleton’s standout golfer assumed the worst.

“I had a bad feeling for the majority of the back nine,” Levin said. “I could tell things were tight, but I had no clue because no one would tell me what was going on.”

Here’s what.

Levin and the Cardinals were on the ropes at the WIAA Division 1 Reedsburg Sectional Tuesday afternoon. And with three holes to play, Middleton trailed Waunakee by two shots for the final berth to the state team tournament.

But the Cardinals closed with a bang, outscored the Warriors by four shots in the final three holes, and earned a trip back to the state tournament Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge Golf Course.

Madison Memorial shot a season-low 304 and won the sectional. Middleton was second at 308 and the Warriors were a close third at 310.

“It feels great to get an opportunity to get back to U-Ridge and compete for a state title again this year,” Cardinals junior standout Emmet Herb said. “We felt confident going in, didn't quite play our best, but it is nice to see we can still put up a decent score under the pressure.

“Obviously, we would have like today to be a little less dramatic, but we are still excited that our season has a few more matches. Hopefully we can make the most of them.”

For much of the day, it looked like the Cardinals might be out of matches.

Memorial, playing in the first wave of teams, bested its season average by a remarkable 28 shots and posted an imposing score.

Middleton led Waunakee, 152-153, at the turn, in what proved to be a battle for the final team spot. But Waunakee went ahead by two shots through 12 holes and maintained that exact advantage after No. 15.

“I just didn't think it was going to happen,” Middleton coach Tom Cabalka said of his team reaching state.

But to the delight of Cabalka — and his team — it did.

The Cardinals closed within one shot after 16 holes and pulled even through 17.

On the 18th hole, Middleton’s Brady Thomas, Levin and Herb all made par and the Cardinals played the final hole at 1-over-par. Waunakee shot 3-over on No. 18 and the Cardinals were state-bound.

“It was a difficult go,”  Cabalka said. “But we survived and we’re very pleased to be going back to state.”

Levin agreed.

“We have been putting state on a pedestal all season, and one of our goals was to get back there,” said Levin, whose team finished fourth at state in 2014. “I can’t describe how happy I am to go back, especially like this. Our team battled … and the fight in our team gives us a good chance to be successful at state.”

Herb had a memorable day, firing a 1-over-par, 73 and finishing third overall. Herb also won his head-to-head matchup with Waunakee standout Max Murphy, who shot a 74.

“Max and I have grown to be good friends, and we did not know that it was so tight today,” Herb said. “There was little to no tension other than the pressure I put on myself to play well.”

Levin shot a 74 and tied for fourth individually. Levin’s day was highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt from just off the green at No. 16.

“Those two kids have just been so strong for so long now,” Cabalka said. “I just can’t say enough about them. They are something else.”

Thomas was 7-over-par through 13 holes. But he found himself and was terrific down the stretch, playing the final five holes at even par and carding a 79.

“Brady really manned up,” Cabalka said. “Those last five holes he was outstanding.”

Junior Nils Arneson added an 82, and Middleton escaped.

Now, it’s back to state where the Cardinals have some unfinished business from a year ago.

“This team is very talented and I think we have all the tools to play well,” Levin said. “It will come down to if we can outsmart all the other teams. I'm beyond excited for Monday and Tuesday. It is going to be a special couple days.”

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