Freshman Charlie Jambor and the Middleton boys golf team brought the sizzle.
Madison Memorial, led by medalist Silas Pickhardt, and Waunakee provided the drama.
Toss in a one-hour weather delay mid-afternoon and a playoff for first place and it all made for a captivating finish at Monday’s loaded WIAA Division 1 Madison Memorial sectional at Blackhawk Country Club.
Middleton, ranked fourth in Division 1 in the state coaches’ poll, won the sectional championship with a season-best 297. The Cardinals were led by No. 5 golfer Jambor’s career-best, even-par 72 that resulted in an unexpected embrace from his coach, Tom Cabalka, a former Middleton football defensive coordinator.
“My coach is not — how do I explain? — he’s not a very soft guy,” Jambor said. “So when he came up to me and said, `Come here,’ and gave me a hug, I knew I played well.”
“I don’t know what to say to that,” Cabalka said, bursting out in laughter. “You know when a kid does something like that, like he did today, I couldn’t help but give him a big hug.”
Ninth-ranked Madison Memorial, led by senior Pickhardt’s 72, finished second with 314, one stroke better than third-place Waunakee.
The Spartans posted their score after playing in the first wave of teams, then nervously waited for the second wave of four more teams to finish — including No. 8-ranked Waunakee.
The 314 held up after Waunakee freshman K.C. Nickel’s 20-foot putt for par stopped one inch short on the lip at No. 18, leaving the Warriors with 315 following his tap-in.
“I had told them it’s probably going to be won on the 18th hole, and we were prepared to go into a playoff,” Waunakee coach Betsy Zadra said. “And it was really close. … We were ready to play more holes. Unfortunately, we needed one more roll of that putt on 18.”
Middleton and runner-up Memorial earned the two state berths and advanced to the Division 1 state tournament June 14-15 at Wild Rock Golf Club in Wisconsin Dells.
“It couldn’t have been a better scenario because I found out the team qualified and then I’ve always wanted to be in a playoff,” said Pickhardt, who plans to play golf and study environmental science at Northern Michigan. “My whole team was following me and I could share that moment. So, it meant a lot a lot to me. On the green, I was taking it all in and enjoying the moment.”
He added: “(Going to state as a team) means the world to us. … I hugged my brother (sophomore Henry Pickhardt, Memorial’s No. 3 golfer). It was a really special moment. Sharing that with him was really, really cool.”
Pickhardt earned first place when he sank a short birdie on No. 10 and defeated Jambor, who had a double bogey, in a one-hole playoff. Pickhardt, Memorial’s No. 1 golfer, matched his season-best score and recorded his best postseason round.
Middleton had all five players shoot in the 70s — Jambor, junior Alec Sosnowski (73), senior and University of Wisconsin commit Jacob Beckman (75), sophomore Drew Sjowall (77) and freshman Dain Johnson 78 (the top four scores are counted).
Jambor, who won a team qualifying event to be Middleton’s fifth golfer, said he was filled with confidence after he made a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 9.
“At that moment, I knew I had it all under control,” Jambor said. “I was hoping to keep it in the 70s and be in the mix. I lucked out today and played well.”
Cabalka said his team played phenomenally in reaching its season-long goal of advancing to state, but Cabalka admitted he was “shocked” by Jambor’s score.
“The only celebration we have is we go to Kwik Trip and we have Slushies,” Cabalka said. “And Charlie gets the big one.”
Junior Ethan Williams contributed a 76 for Memorial.
“You’ve always got a chance at 314,” Spartans coach Matt Hartmann said. “And this course is not easy coming down the stretch. Fourteen through 18, anything can happen. We hung in there through those holes, and it probably helps that all five of my players are members here.”
The three individuals who advanced to state from non-qualifying teams were Verona senior Andrew Aune (74), Waunakee junior Max Brud (77) and Tomah senior Hunter Neumann (77).
Zadra was proud of Waunakee’s season, but she said the Warriors were extremely disappointed by the outcome.
“On (Memorial’s) home course, absolutely, I knew that it was going to come down to the end,” Zadra said. “I knew it was going to be won on the back nine on 14 through 18. It’s just that kind of course. It demands grit and you really have to grind until the end. I’m so proud of our guys because I think they did. They were playing the back nine so well. I wish we wouldn’t have had the weather delay because it takes away a little bit of your mojo, but they did a good job.”
Just after the second wave’s No. 5 golfers finished, the tournament was halted for an hour due to the weather delay.
St. Mary’s Springs sectional
Cambridge sophomore Nick Buckman earned an individual trip to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament after finishing in a tie for second place in the Springs sectional at South Hills Country Club in Fond du Lac.
Buckman shot a 10-over-par 81 to lead fourth-place Cambridge to a team total of 346, six strokes behind champion Kohler and four behind the other team state qualifier, Racine Lutheran, at 342.
Madison Abundant Life finished eighth, led by junior Brent Schmiesing’s 87.