MHS golfers have survived, thrived

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Alexis Thomas (right) and coach Becky Halverson have kept Middleton’s golfers headed in the right direction during a year in which the Cardinals faced — and overcame — great adversity./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

—  Vince Lombardi, Green Bay Packers head coach (1959-’67)


Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest football coach in history, uttered these famous words more than a half century ago.

If Lombardi were alive today, he’d be thrilled to see how Middleton’s girls golf team has handled the adversity he was speaking of.

Few teams anywhere have dealt with the number of obstacles the Cardinals have in 2016. And it’s hard to imagine anyone handling the challenges any better.

Middleton, the defending WIAA Division 1 champions, rolled at its own sectional held at Blackhawk Country Club Tuesday afternoon. The Cardinals shot a 322 and will head back to state as one of the co-favorites along with Hartland Arrowhead.

On the surface, it’s not a surprise that Middleton is headed back to state. The Cardinals have now reached the state tournament in five consecutive years, seven out of eight, and 17 times since 1997.

But Middleton has faced more adversity in 2016 than any time in recent memory. So the fact the Cardinals have put together another memorable season has been extremely impressive.

“They’ve dealt with a lot of things,” Cardinals coach Becky Halverson said of her team. “And they’ve handled them all extremely well.”

That’s for sure.

Middleton was dealt its first blow when No. 2 golfer Morgan Narowetz quit the team early in the year. Narowetz, a key member of the Cardinals’ state title team a year ago, was being counted on for big things in 2016.

But Narowetz told Halverson she was “burned out” and needed a break from golf. Just like that, Middleton’s path back to state hit its first roadblock.

“You never think things like that are going to happen with your team,” said Middleton senior Alexis Thomas, who’s been arguably the best player in the state in 2016. “But I think it’s helped us grow closer together. I think we’ve come out stronger than ever. It’s been amazing.”

Fortunately for Halverson and the Cardinals, they had an ace in the hole.

Senior Lindsay Callahan was a standout on the Middleton team that finished third at state in 2014. But Callahan battled a back injury that ruined her entire junior season in 2015.

Callahan, who has to fight through back pain while playing 18 holes, planned to play with Middleton’s JV team this year — where the matches are typically just nine holes. But after Narowetz left the team, Halverson asked Callahan if she could handle the grind of a varsity season.

Callahan talked it over with her family and decided to give it a shot. And after a sensational stretch in which Callahan has re-established herself as one of Middleton’s top golfers, she’s thrilled she jumped back up to varsity.

“This has probably been one of the best decisions I’ve made,” Callahan said. “There are times I do have to suck it up, but this has been so much fun. I’m really glad I came back.”

Callahan admits that after eight or nine holes, her back — which has two slipped discs — begins to hurt. And Callahan isn’t certain how her back will feel after consecutive days of 18-hole rounds at state.

But after missing Middleton’s run to the 2015 state title, Callahan can’t wait to be part of the fun.

“I think I want a state title more than anyone,” Callahan said. “Not really being part of the team last year, I think it might mean more to me than anybody else. I really want it.”

So does senior Morgan Miles, who’s been through a rough year herself.

Just three days before Middleton’s season began, Rae Miles — Morgan’s mother — learned her cancer had returned. So with a heavy heart, Morgan Miles put her head down, began grinding, and had arguably her best season as a Cardinal.

“It’s definitely been a roller coaster,” Miles said. “But I’ve just tried to concentrate and stay focused.

“I’m not the only one. We’ve had girls step up that have done a great job. I’m really proud of everyone.”

Rae Miles follows Morgan around the course as much as possible. And Morgan has her Mom’s initials written on her golf ball.

Through it all, Morgan has tried staying positive, something everyone in the program has been impressed by.

“Morgan’s one of the strongest girls I know,” Halverson said. “She has one of the most positive attitudes around, which has been huge.”

Miles isn’t the only one playing for someone each time they tee off.

Thomas lost her father, Jim, when she was just 10 years old. Jim Thomas, the former head professional at the Bridges Golf Course and the head coach Madison College, died unexpectedly in 2009.

Today, Alexis thinks about her Dad every time she’s on the course.

“When I golf, I play for my Dad,” Thomas said. “He’s with me all the time. And I know Morgan’s the same way. She plays for her Mom and her Mom is always there.”

While the Cardinals have seemingly been given a basket of lemons this season, they’ve undoubtedly made lemonade.

Middleton finished first in all but two invites it competed at. The Cardinals went a perfect 9-0 in Big Eight Conference dual meets, then won the conference tournament, as well.

Middleton rolled at its own regional last Wednesday held at Pleasant View Golf Course. The Cardinals shot a 337, easily outdistancing runner-up Waunakee (359).

Then at sectionals Tuesday, Middleton’s 322 was good for a 47-shot win over second place Oregon.

Thomas was sensational again, capturing medalist honors with a 1-under-par, 71. Middleton also counted an 80 from freshman Kate Meier, an 85 from Miles and an 86 from Callahan.

“I’m really proud of how we’ve all done,” Miles said. “Everyone has their bad days, but we’ve been pretty consistent.”

Now, the Cardinals will try becoming the first Division 1 team to repeat as state champions since Homestead in 2011-’12.

Arrowhead, which finished one shot behind Middleton at state a year ago, is the No. 1 ranked team and a slight favorite. But the second-ranked Cardinals expect to be in a dogfight with the Warhawks during the two-day event.

“I don’t want to ever forget that feeling of winning a state title and I want them to have that feeling again,” Halverson said. “They’ve put in so much time and effort and hard work, that it would be great to go and win it again.

“They deserve it. They’ve been through a lot. It would be a great end to the season.”


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