Stand toe-to-toe with the defending champs? Well, that was a little too much to ask of any of the 15 other teams in this year’s WIAA Division 1 state boys golf tournament field.
Instead, the young but exceedingly able Middleton boys golf team did the next best thing on Monday and Tuesday — and the Cardinals have the hardware to prove it.
Middleton’s all-underclassman crew didn’t waver throughout Tuesday’s 18-hole afternoon round, shooting 614 and holding onto a runner-up finish in the 16-team field.
Marquette repeated as champion, following Monday’s four-player team score of 296 with a 298 under soggier conditions on Tuesday, winding up at 18 strokes over par.
Middleton started with a 303 on Monday, just seven strokes back, and shot 311 on Tuesday.
Still, the Cardinals always had a solid grip on second place, holding off third-place Lake Geneva Badger, which finished third at 623; Kaukauna, fourth at 624; Wauwatosa East/West, fifth at 626; and Menomonee Falls, sixth at 627.
“We knew it was going to be pretty tough to beat Marquette, but we were pretty sure we could get second,” said Cardinals No. 4 player Kip Sullivan, a junior who shot 76 on Tuesday to match junior Tommy Kriewaldt for team honors.
Sullivan totaled 151 to tie for 12th overall, the best finish by an area Division 1 player. He started with birdies on Nos. 1 and 4, and then bogeyed six holes and parred eight of nine holes from No. 8 through No. 16.
“(I) just played a solid, fairways-to-greens kind of day,” Sullivan said. “The other guys came through, and that’s why we finished where we did.”
Middleton’s No. 1 player, sophomore Jacob Beckman, tied for 16th at 152 after a 79 on Tuesday. He scored birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 16 on Tuesday, but was slowed by 10 bogeys.
After his 76 on Tuesday, Kriewaldt tied for 26th overall at 156. His strong finish was key to Middleton’s solid grip on second place, as he shot 1-under for the last eight holes with birdies on Nos. 11 and 17 and a bogey on No. 13.
After a 75 on Monday, Middleton’s Carson Frisch shot 83 on Tuesday for a 158 and a tie for 34th place. No. 5 player Tim O’Malley had birdies on Nos. 4 and 16 to finish at 80 for a total of 163, tied for 58th.
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Merrill junior Russell Dettmering was the star of the day Tuesday, taming a course that baffled many other players. He delivered five birdies and an eagle, shooting 33 per side for a 6-under-par 66 that was the best round of the tournament and one of only three under-par rounds in Division 1 all day Tuesday.
Dettmering started with birdies on Nos. 2, 5 and 6 on the front nine. He birdied No. 11, but then took a bogey 4 on No. 12. He followed up with a birdie on No. 15 and an eagle 3 on No. 16.
Marquette seniors Jack Blair and Drew Sagrillo shot 72 and 70, respectively, to finish second and third at 143 and 145. Also coming in at 145 was Lake Geneva Badger senior Blake Wisdom, who followed Monday’s 70 with a 75 for a 145. Kenosha Tremper junior Cameron Huss finished fifth at 146, with a 71 on Tuesday.
Two-time defending champion Piercen Hunt, a junior from Hartland Arrowhead, started with a 71 on Monday, but shot 76 on Tuesday to finish at 147, tied for sixth with Mukwonago senior Nick Schroeder.
With all five varsity players expected to return next season, Middleton already is making plans for a move up the ladder. After all, Marquette graduates three players, including its top two.
“I’ve got a sneaky suspicion about next year,” Sullivan said. “I’m not going to say anything more, but I’ve got a good feeling.”
The top finisher among area individual qualifiers was Sun Prairie junior Mickey Keating, who shot 77 to tie for 16th at 152. His steady round included six consecutive pars to start and 13 pars overall, along with a birdie on No. 11.
Mount Horeb senior Kasen Fager, who shot 72 on Monday, finished at 154 after an 82 on Tuesday to tie for 22nd. He recorded consecutive birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 after struggling with double bogeys on two of his first three holes.
Verona senior Austin Gaby shot 76 to tie for 39th at 159. He earned birdies on Nos. 6 and 14 on Tuesday.
Despite a pair of birdies on Nos. 15 and 16, Beaver Dam senior Zak Kulka shot 85 on Tuesday after making noise with a 75 on Monday. He tied for 41st place.
Milton senior A.J. Gray birdied Nos. 2 and 15 and finished at 83 after a 78 on Monday, putting him at 161 and in a tie for 53rd place.
Janesville Parker junior Kadin Kleman had a birdie on No. 15 and only two pars, shooting 89 to finish at 174, tied for 86th.