Hodson, MHS golfers steal the show

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton junior golfer Payton Hodson captured medalist honors at the Big Eight Conference tournament last Thursday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

EVANSVILLE — As the snow fell last winter and temperatures hovered in the single digits, Payton Hodson trekked out to her garage most days. And Middleton’s rapidly rising golfer took swing after swing, firing ball after ball into a net.

Glamorous? Far from.

Effective? You bet.

Hodson, one of the state’s most improved golfers in 2016, has seen her stock skyrocket in the last 12 months. And the blue-chipper took it to another level last Thursday.

Hodson, a junior at MHS, won the Big Eight Conference tournament held at Evansville Golf Course. Hodson fired a 3-over-par 75 and helped Middleton — the state’s No. 1 ranked team — cruise to the team title.

The Cardinals shot a 326-team score to easily outdistance runner-up Janesville Parker (360) and Verona (366).

“Personally, capturing medalist honors was absolutely amazing and surreal,” Hodson said. “Going into the conference tournament, I felt really confident with my game, but winning it individually wasn’t top of mind.

“My focus was on each hole and each stroke, and how best I could help out my team. For Middleton to win it was fantastic, and my individual win was icing on the cake!”

Hodson wasn’t the only Cardinal to enjoy a big day.

MHS senior Alexis Thomas finished second overall with a 76. Senior Lindsay Callahan carded an 87 and finished sixth individually, while senior Morgan Miles and freshman Kate Meier both shot 88s and tied for eighth .

“Winning the Big Eight Conference tournament was a great start to our postseason run,” said Middleton coach Becky Halverson, who helped lead the Cardinals to the WIAA Division 1 state title last year. “It was definitely exciting to have Payton and Alexis finish first and second, and both of them would agree that they could have played even better.  

“To have Payton (finish) first, Alexis second, Lindsay sixth and Morgan and Kate tie for eighth is just awesome. I am just so proud of them and all their accomplishments so far.”

There was a lot to be proud of on this day, beginning with Hodson.

Hodson has taken a major jump in this, her junior season, highlighted by a career-best 74 that included medalist honors at the Cardinal Invite earlier this month.

Hodson has been a model of consistency since that time and was terrific once again at the conference meet.

Hodson shot a 2-over-par, 38, on the front nine, highlighted by a birdie at No. 4 and four consecutive pars between No. 6-9.

After a bogey at No. 10 dropped Hodson back to 3-over-par, she birdied No. 12 and 14 and jumped to 1-over. Hodson stayed there until she had a hiccup and made double bogey at No. 18.

Still, it was a memorable round for the Cardinals’ standout.

“I was very happy and proud of Payton for winning the conference tournament,” Thomas said. “It definitely boosted her confidence, which is something everyone of us needs. You can tell she’s really worked hard this past summer and fall, and it’s great for our team.”

Thomas has been great for the Cardinals, as well.

A first-team all-state player in 2015, Thomas has gotten even better in 2016. And the North Dakota State recruit capped her Big Eight career in style.

Thomas made a birdie at the par-5 second hole on her way to a 38 on the front nine. The remarkably steady Thomas then notched seven pars and two bogeys on the back nine and posted a 38 on that side, as well.

Much like Hodson, Thomas has taken her game up several notches in her final year at MHS.

“Every day this summer I always tried to practice with a purpose, whether I was working on my swing at the range, or perfecting my short game on the course,” Thomas said. “My main goal each day was to accomplish something new and try new things to get the ball closest to the hole, and that definitely helped improve my game. As of right now, I’m just trying to stay focused on my own game, and not let any little distractions get to me, and help motivate my team to get where we want to be.”

Callahan, who has fought a back injury while at MHS, is also finishing her career with a bang. And both Meier and Miles had solid days, as well, as the Cardinals rolled to the conference title.

“I sound like a broken record, but our short game still needs a lot of work and that will be our focus in preparing for our postseason run,” Halverson said. “We’re going to try to make this a special end to our three seniors’ seasons.”

The Cardinals host the Middleton Regional Wednesday at Pleasant View. Middleton will also host a sectional Oct. 4 at Blackhawk Country Club beginning at 9 a.m.

The state tournament is Oct. 10-11 at University Ridge Golf Course.

“Right now, I feel prepared and assured that, as a team, we are in a good position to advance,” Hodson said. “Heading into the postseason, our focus is to continue to improve every day.

“We are sharpening our short game and working to eliminate those wasted strokes. Even though we are ranked No. 1 in the state, we cannot take this for granted. We have much work to do to reach our goal of another state title. It is important for us to remain positive, cohesive, and confident in our abilities. We can only do this as a team, and we are excited to rise to the challenge.”

Thomas agreed.

“I’m pretty confident with what my team and I have right now,” Thomas said. “We definitely all have the capability to shoot low, which is great to know coming into the postseason.

“We all have the same goals, and as of right now we’re trying to stay focused by working on them one day at a time, doing everything we need to in order to achieve those goals. Our main goal is to perfect our short game because we all know that’s the most important part of the game.

“I’m just really excited to give this all one last shot before the season is over, and I don’t want us to regret anything. We’ve really come a long way, and we act like family, which is something really special coming into the postseason.”

Middleton also won the Triton Invitational held Sept. 19 at Thornberry Creek. The Cardinals shot a 326 to easily outdistance runner-up Oshkosh West (338).

Middleton had never shot lower than a 343 at the Triton Invite, so Halverson and her team were thrilled with the results.

“This is the first time we’ve won this invite,” Halverson said afterwards.

Thomas was the medalist with a 76, while Hodson carded a 77 and finished in a second place tie. Callahan was ninth with an 86, while Miles was 10th with an 87.

Meier was 13th individually with an 88, but her score didn’t count because the other Cardinals had such impressive showings.

“All five girls were in the top 13,” Halverson said. “I like this tournament because it’s a tough course and I think it really helps our mental toughness getting ready for postseason. It was also neat for the girls to play the same course where the LPGA will be playing next July.”


Big Eight Conference Tournament

At Evansville Golf Course (Par 72)


Middleton 326, Janesville Parker 360, Verona 366, Sun Prairie 388, Janesville Craig 427, Madison West 461, Madison Memorial 572, Beloit Memorial 589, Madison East 598, Madison La Follette 698.


1. Payton Hodson (Middleton), 75; 2. Alexis Thomas (Middleton), 76; 3. Lauren Shorter (Verona), 81; 4. Chloe Day (Beloit), 83; 5. Claire Finucane (Sun Prairie), 83.


Middleton (326)—Lindsay Callahan, 87; Morgan Miles, 88; Kate Meier 88.

Parker (360)—Keara Richards, 91; Emily O’Leary, 91; Jackie Polglaze, 88; Kameron Blaser, 90.

Verona (366)—Courtney Shorter, 92; Alexis Gaillard, 95; Nicole Thomas, 98.

Sun Prairie (388)—Jessica Rudnicki, 89; Megan Lipke, 105; Morgan Jambard, 111.

Janesville Craig (427)—Catherine Roe, 101; Lauren Schmitt, 103; Sara Nerad, 115; Morgan Christoph, 108.

Madison West (461)—Lillian Knetter, 100; Ashley Fleming, 117; Gibsen Kaye, 139; Valerie Hellmer, 105.

Madison Memorial (572)—Kelly Elmes, 87; Lauren Krieg, 89.

Beloit (589)—Lizzie Sage, 110.

Madison East (598)—Caroline Royer, 106; Maddy Paulson, 150; Anne Motoviloff, 144.

Madison La Follette (698)—Kelly Mael, 104.


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