Golfers hope for big postseason

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Mackenzie Hodson and Middleton's girls golfers compete at sectionals Wednesday. The state tournament is Oct. 9-10./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Becky Halverson is an extremely positive person by nature.

Halverson is an optimist, she’s upbeat and typically carries a cheery disposition.

But even Halverson, Middleton’s girls golf coach, was hesitant when it came to forecasting the Cardinals’ current season.

“Going into the year, I thought it was a stretch goal to get to state,” Halverson said. “I thought we’d be decent, but I wasn’t sure how good we could be.”

Try sensational.

Middleton won the Big Eight Conference dual meet championship, posting a perfect 9-0 record. The Cardinals are now 44-0-1 in league dual meets since Halverson took over in 2013.

Middleton won the Big Eight Conference postseason title last month. And the Cardinals rolled to the team title at last week’s WIAA Division 1 Middleton regional.

The Cardinals were headed to the Verona Sectional Wednesday, where the top two teams qualify for the state tournament. If Middleton advances through sectionals, it would earn a trip to state, which will be held Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge.

And after losing three of its top five golfers from last year’s state runner-up team, the fact Middleton is in the hunt for another state tournament is remarkably impressive.

“I didn’t know what to expect this year,” said senior standout Payton Hodson. “I definitely knew we had some very strong players and a lot of girls that showed potential during the summer. But I wasn’t sure how we’d be.”

Sophomore Kate Meier agreed.

“I am definitely proud and very happy,” Meier said. “During the summer it was kind of hard to picture where the team would wind up. I didn’t know the lineup and how it would look. But right now, I’m very happy.”

With good reason.

Hodson, who played No. 3 last year, jumped up to No. 1 and had a memorable season.

Hodson, a Valparaiso recruit, spent countless hours on the course since the end of last season.

“Once spring hit, Payton was at Pleasant View every day,” Halverson said. “I think that was huge. Then she played in a lot of summer tournaments and kept getting better.”

Hodson improved her consistency and made major strides in her short game. And after compiling an 18-hole average of 81.3 last year, Hodson’s average this year is 77.3.

“Over the summer, I played in a lot of tournaments and spent every day practicing,” Hodson said. “I think I got a lot better.”

Hodson admitted she’s had peace of mind all season. After trying to impress college coaches the last year or two, that burden was lifted when she chose Valparaiso before the season began.

“It was a very stressful summer,” Hodson said. “I’d go to a tournament and see 15 college coaches. So it was nice to have that behind me.”

Meier also took major strides this season. After averaging 87.9 last year, Meier’s average is 82.1 this year.

Meier has always been outstanding off the tees. But she’s made enormous gains with her short game that has led to much lower scores.

“During the summer, I would practice an hour a day on my short game,” Meier said. “It’s a big commitment, especially when you know other kids are off having fun. But I love it.”

Senior Grace Peterson, a junior varsity player last year, has also improved by leaps and bounds.

“I saw Grace (at Pleasant View) every day this summer,” Halverson said. “And her game has really taken off.”

Middleton has been searching for a branch of consistency at No. 4 and 5 all year. Halverson brought sophomore Makenzie Hodson and senior Haley Dunn to regionals and sectionals, but admitted nothing was set in stone.

“There have been five girls for those last two spots all year,” Halverson said. “We’ll see what happens.”

In Halverson’s first four years, Middleton has finished first at state in 2015, second in 2016, and third in both 2013 and 2014.

If the fifth-ranked Cardinals advance again, as expected, a top-three finish will be remarkably challenging.

Arrowhead, Milton, Kettle Moraine and Brookfield Central have all enjoyed sensational years. And it might be tough for Middleton to leapfrog any of those schools.

But few also thought the Cardinals would be where they are today. And Middleton knows that once state arrives, anything is possible.

“My biggest goal is to make sure we don’t have any regrets,” Meier said. “Don’t strive for a number on a scorecard. Just make the most out of every shot we have.”

Hodson agreed.

“Our goal is to be in the final pairing and to play with the best teams on the final day,” Hodson said. “You can’t predict how the other teams are going to do. But I think we can be right there with the top ones.”


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