Middleton golfers in rebuilding mode

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Andy Zucker and Middleton's boys golf team hopes to surprise this season./File photo

Tom Cabalka, Middleton’s ultra-successful boys golf coach, pictured the scenario before it even took place.

Cabalka, like most golf coaches, drives his team to their meets. And Cabalka knew this year rides would be substantially different than recent seasons.

“I think I’m going to get in the Suburban and look in the rearview mirror,” Cabalka said. “And then I’m going to say, ‘Who are you guys?’ ”

That’s a fair question.

Middleton lost more firepower than any team in the state. And Cabalka can be forgiven if he begins feeling nostalgic from time to time.

Gone are the trio of Emmet Herb, Joey Levin and Brady Thomas, who left an indelible stamp on the program. That threesome played varsity four straight seasons and led Middleton to top-five finishes at state each of the past three years, including a second place finish in 2016.

Herb won the WIAA Division 1 individual state title in 2016 and was named the state’s Player of the Year by the Wisconsin Golf Coaches Association. Levin was named second-team all-state last year, while Thomas was an honorable-mention all-state selection.

In addition, Nils Arneson was an all-Big Eight Conference performer the last two years. Without question, no team in Wisconsin suffered greater losses in graduation than Middleton.

Now, Cabalka and the Cardinals will turn the page and try keeping one of the state’s elite programs operating at a high level.

“Obviously our talent’s down a little,” Cabalka said. “How could it not be when you look at the guys we lost? But there are kids here that can play.”

Middleton struggled at the season-opening Wisconsin Dells Invite last weekend, finishing seventh out of 14 teams. But Cabalka believes nerves and inexperience were both issues, and that his team will play much better in the days ahead.

Senior Brett Wipfli jumps to No. 1 in the lineup. The 6-foot-6 Wipfli is one of the longer hitters around, but now must develop the consistency that goes with playing at No. 1.

“Brett has certainly improved his game,” Cabalka said. “In the past, there hasn’t been a lot of hope for him to get into the lineup. Now, he’s got to take a big step to play No. 1, but I think he can do it.”

Junior Andy Zucker will be counted on for big things. Zucker held the No. 5 spot in the lineup most of the year in 2016, and will need to elevate his game to help make up for the departed players.

“He’s obviously in a very different role,” Cabalka said of Zucker. “But he has some experience. He’s been around.”

Senior Ross Johnson has played on Middleton’s JV ‘A’ team the last two years, and Cabalka is expecting him to become a major contributor.

“Ross has steadily gotten better,” Cabalka said. “He has the ability and he can really swing. But he’s a kid who has to avoid the doubles and learn how to score.”

After that, it’s a mosh pit. In fact, Cabalka said he wouldn't be surprised if 12 players got a chance to play varsity before the season ends.

Among the contenders are seniors Colin Butler, Christian Anderson and Kevin Baltes, juniors Henry Taylor and Mitch Giroux, sophomore Chandon Thomas and freshman Tommy Kriewaldt and Carson Frisch.

“We’re young,” Cabalka said. “And even in places where we’re not young, we’re inexperienced. We’re just really searching to see who our kids are going to be and it could take a while.”

Cabalka wasn’t pleased with Middleton’s opening weekend performance. He knew that each of his players was capable of playing far better than they showed in Wisconsin Dells.

But Cabalka is also confident that once this new group plays a handful of meets, their numbers will improve dramatically.

Few will be expecting much from the 2017 Cardinals, and playing the role of underdog will be new. But Cabalka believes once Middleton gathers its sea legs, it can surprise.

“I think we’re going to get better and better as the year goes along,” Cabalka said. “But right now, it’s about baby steps.

“We need to go from a 340 to a 330 to a 320. Hopefully we can do that and continue to get a whole lot better.”

 

BOYS GOLF ROSTER

Seniors: Eric Andersen, Christian Anderson, Kevin Baltes, Colton Best, Colin Butler, Ross Johnson, Tommy Luddy, Alex Nisbet, Jack Pientka, James Rasmussen, Keaton Shaw, Bryce VanderSanden, Brett Wipfli.

Juniors: Alex Andler, Logan Collien, Houston DiMaggio, Mitch Giroux, Ryan Handowski, Dylan Hogan, Colin Liegel, Nick Luddy, Logan Melum, Charlie Milliken, Jackson Pagel, Nicholas Quartaro, Griffin Rose, Andy Simon, Benjamin Statsick, Henry Taylor, Jon Tews, Casey Vanden Burgt, Andrew Zucker.

Sophomores: Andy Chafe, Mitchel Culver, Kyle Fait, Nicholas Fink, Garrett Garcia, Houston Hughes, Tate Hughes, Kyle Neuser, Lars Oelerich, Mitchell Robinson, Collin Serra, Simon Sisk, Dane Sjowall, Archer Stousland, Chandon Thomas, Tony Tu, Ethan Ward.

Freshmen: Josh Cochrane, James Cownie, Carson Frisch, Tommy Kriewaldt, Sam Larsen, R.J. Lavallee, Evan Nelson, Jonah Pavek, Connor Shanley, Matthew Stormer, Jay Sullivan, Kip Sullivan, Bret Thomas, Parker Van Buren, Austin Walser.

 

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