Golfers set sights on state title

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Brady Thomas and Middleton's boys golf team have great expectations this season./File photo

There’s a long-standing saying that deadlines spur action.

For Brady Thomas, Emmet Herb and Joey Levin, their deadline has arrived. Now, Middleton’s senior golfers are expecting their finest action yet.

The Cardinals’ terrific trio has been part of the varsity lineup since their freshman seasons. In that time, they’ve helped Middleton finish fourth at state in 2014 and fifth in 2015.

Now, with the end in sight, Herb, Levin and Thomas all want to leave on a high note.

“This is our last go at that state championship,” said Thomas, whose team begins its season Friday at the Wisconsin Dells Invite. “We have had our chances the last two years at winning and failed.

“I think this year it’s our turn to really take over because it’s our last year and we all have worked really hard to come out on top in the end. I'm extremely excited to work our way to (University) Ridge and then get the job done there.”

Levin agreed.

“We are all really excited for this season,” Levin said. “This past winter we put in a lot of work in order to succeed this year. I know that all the guys, especially the seniors, are really motivated to leave their mark on the Middleton golf tradition.”

The chances of that happening appear awfully strong.

Herb, Levin and Thomas — who will finish their careers as four-year letterwinners — were all named first-team all-Big Eight Conference last season. Fellow senior Nils Arneson, who joined the program in 2015, was named second-team all-conference last year.

Good luck finding a team anywhere with that kind of experience and talent.

“These guys have been around for a while now and they’ve done some great things,” Middleton coach Tom Cabalka said. “But I know they want to go out on top. That’s really important to them.

“For two years, they’ve been saying this could be our year. And each time it’s been a great chance for it to be our year, and we just didn’t finish the job. But maybe this is our year.”

There’s certainly enough firepower to make it Middleton’s year.

Herb averaged a team-best 77.15 last season and finished in the top-5 at 12 different events. Herb won the Sparta Invite, two different Big Eight Conference meets, then was second at regionals and third at sectionals.

Herb was named first-team all-Big Eight and honorable-mention all-state. Herb will also continue his golfing career to St. Thomas (Minn.), one of the top Division 3 programs in the country.

“Emmet is just a wonderful kid,” Cabalka said. “He continues to work so hard and he refuses to be mediocre.

“He’s had great drive for this game since he was 8 or 9 years old. This is his game and he just keeps getting better at it.”

Levin has improved his game by leaps and bounds during his three years in the program, as well.

Levin averaged 77.20 a year ago and finished second in the race for Big Eight Player of the Year honors. Levin had 12 top-five finishes during the year, won the Middleton Regional and was also named honorable-mention all-state.

“Joey just keeps getting better,” Cabalka said. “When he was a freshman, he had all the talent, but not all the shots. Now I think he has all the shots.

“He’s such a perfectionist and has such a great attitude, too. He’s always very hungry for playing better, playing well.”

Thomas was also a first-team all-conference and honorable mention all-state player. Thomas averaged 79.10 last year and notched 11 top-five finishes throughout the season.

Despite those solid numbers, Cabalka knows Thomas is capable of even more.

“Brady struggled at times because of his aspirations to be a big-time college player,” Cabalka said. “At times, that really kind of affected him.

“Hopefully he’s put all that stuff past him now, because when Brady’s on, he’s got probably one of best short games I’ve seen. We’re hoping he has a big year.”

Cabalka is hoping for the same from Arneson, who was Madison East’s No. 1 player in 2013 and ’14. Arneson was up and down a year ago, but still earned second-team all-conference honors.

Arneson — along with the ‘Big Three’ of Thomas, Herb and Levin — were all named a captains. And Cabalka believes Arneson is poised for a big final season.

“At times, Nils showed he can be a great golfer,” Cabalka said. “But it was a learning curve for Nils not being the best on the team. It was also a learning curve for me not knowing Nils as well as I knew the other guys.

“Now, Nils is one of our captains. The kids wanted him to be a captain, and that’s important knowing that the younger kids look up to him.”

Middleton’s No. 5 golfer figures to be either sophomore Henry Taylor, junior Brett Wipfli, sophomore Andy Zucker or senior Jack Vincent.

Taylor came on late last season and was Middleton’s No. 5 golfer at state. Taylor’s 79 on the first day of state was Middleton’s second-best score and he finished 44th individually with a 162.

“Henry has a lot of ability and he works as hard as anybody,” Cabalka said of Taylor. “He’s a 4.0 student and he’s also quite the student of the game.”

Wipfli was one of the standouts on the junior varsity team last season and has improved his game immensely. Zucker has golfed since an extremely young age and is pushing hard to crack the top five. And Vincent has experience after golfing a handful of varsity meets last year.

“We’ve got a lot of great options at No. 5,” Cabalka said.

Middleton has put together stellar regular seasons in back-to-back years. What the Cardinals hope to do now is finish the deal at state.

Last season, Middleton struggled on the first day of state, was 14 shots behind eventual champion Hartland Arrowhead, and never challenged on Day 2.

In 2014, Middleton also struggled early and was 13 shots behind eventual champion Homestead after the first day. The Cardinals tied for the best team score of the second round, but their deficit was too great and they settled for fourth place.

This season, the Cardinals don’t intend to settle.

Their deadline has arrived. And these Cardinals plan to exit in style.

“In order for us to get over the hump, I think it is essential that we don’t get wrapped up in the moment,” Levin said. “In the past, we have let the atmosphere get to us mentally, which inevitably let our emotions take over and caused us to play poorly. So this season, our key to success will be staying focused on the golf and handle our emotions better.”

Thomas agreed.

“We can’t beat ourselves,” Thomas said. “The last two years there hasn't been a remarkable team score that’s won the tournament.

“Both those years we have taken ourselves out of the equation by shooting a high score the first day and not being able to come back from it the second. With four seniors this year, and a bunch of experience under our belts, we’re ready to fire that remarkable two-day score.”

And bring home that elusive state title.

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