Middleton golfers gifted, but inexperienced

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Andy Zucker will lead Middleton's boys golf team this spring./File photo

If there was ever a team that needed every minute of available practice time, it was the 2018 Middleton boys’ golf team.

The Cardinals return just one proven golfer from a year ago in senior Andy Zucker. Middleton has three seniors to replace and at least eight candidates that will be fighting for open positions.

But Mother Nature chose not to cooperate. And over the first week-and-a-half, Middleton’s golfers made it outside just once.

“We’re going to be good with our rules,” Cardinals coach Tom Cabalka quipped.

Now, Cabalka’s Cardinals will try becoming on the course, as well.

Like every other school in Wisconsin, the never-ending winter wreaked havoc with the start of Middleton’s season. The difference is with a young and unproven roster, Middleton needed the early practice rounds far more than a veteran team with an established lineup.

The Cardinals were supposed to play at the Wisconsin Dells Invite last weekend, but lousy conditions forced that event to be postponed to a date Middleton was unavailable. The Cardinals are now scheduled to host a Big Eight Conference triangular Friday at Pleasant View at 2 p.m.

“This is a squad would have really benefitted from being out on the course,” Cabalka said. “We’re young, so every day out there is a valuable day.”

Middleton will build around Zucker, one of the better golfers in the state.

Zucker qualified for state as an individual last season and finished 28th. Zucker was also named first-team all-Big Eight Conference and honorable mention all-state.

“Andy learned so much last year,” Cabalka said. “The first couple of weeks he struggled to get his game in order, but he got things figured out. Now, he’s ready for a leadership role.”

After Zucker, though, the Cardinals have far more questions than answers. The good news for Cabalka & Co. is Middleton usually finds the answers as the season goes along.

“We do have some choices,” Cabalka said. “That’s the good thing.”

Senior Mitch Giroux has some varsity experience and played No. 5 in the lineup during the postseason last year. But Giroux’s greatest issue has always been consistency, something he’ll have to improve on if he hopes to lock down a spot in the top-five.

Senior Henry Taylor played at the state tournament as a freshman when the Cardinals finished fifth as a team. Taylor has struggled to take his game to the next level since, but Cabalka hopes that will change this spring.

“He just hasn’t been able to get his game to where it was,” Cabalka said of Taylor. “But I’m hoping this is the year. I’d like him to finish with a really positive high school golf experience.”

Junior Chandon Thomas certainly has the bloodlines working in his favor. Big brother Brady helped Middleton finish in the top-five at state every year from 2014-’16 and now plays for UW-Eau Claire. Older sister Alexis was the state’s co-Player of the Year in 2016 when she helped Middleton’s girls finish second at state and now plays at North Dakota State.

“Chandon comes from a family that has figured the game out well,” Cabalka said. “Every day I see Chandon maturing, and with that brother and sister, he had to learn something from them. I expect him to take a big step this year.”

Cabalka said that sophomore Carson Frisch was Middleton’s “most consistent” player on the JV ‘A’ team last year and he’ll vie for a varsity spot. Sophomore Tommy Kriewaldt worked extremely hard in the offseason and is expected to factor in, as well.

Senior Alex Andler made a charge late last season and had Middleton’s lowest score (38) during its only practice round of the spring to date.

“Alex really jumpstarted things for himself at the end of last year,” Cabalka said. “Every day this summer he worked on his game, and now he’s given himself an opportunity.”

Freshman Jacob Beckman plays beyond his years and could get into the mix. And sophomore Kip Sullivan had a solid freshman season and is among the long list of candidates hoping to crack the lineup.

While Middleton faces a great challenge replacing several starters — and doing it with limited practice time — the Cardinals usually end up just fine.

Since 1997, the Cardinals have four state championships, two runner-up finishes and 15 overall state appearances.

“There’s lots of questions to be answered as far as a lineup,” Cabalka said. “We'll be young as far a varsity experience, but with lots of work, by the end of the season we should be OK.”

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