The instant James Gilmore made contact with his 4-iron from 230 yards out on Tuesday afternoon, his heart soared along with his golf ball.
“I knew it was perfect, (a) high little draw,” Madison Edgewood’s senior No. 1 player said. “That was probably one of the best shots I’ve had all year, and the perfect time to do it.”
Gilmore reached the green with his second shot on the 535-yard, par-5 ninth hole at University Ridge Golf Course — the final hole of the WIAA Division 2 state tournament.
He didn’t make the ensuing eagle putt, but he didn’t have to. When he rolled in a five-footer for a birdie, it was official: The Crusaders had clinched their third consecutive state team championship.
“He had a little bit of adrenaline going and crushed that shot,” Edgewood coach Joe Ring said.
“Watching James come down, get it on the green, going for the eagle with a two-stroke lead, I know I’ve got full confidence in that guy and he’s got full confidence in himself,” Edgewood sophomore Ethan Arndt said.
And despite a long day filled with distractions and disruptions, Gilmore and the Crusaders made it three in a row.
Just before the midpoint of the final round of the two-day tournament, thunder joined the rain falling on the University Ridge course. That led to a delay of a little more than an hour and forced the WIAA to shorten Tuesday’s Division 2 and 3 play to nine holes.
“That rain delay kind of irritated me, because I love the back nine out here so much,” Gilmore said.
Turns out he got along just fine with the front nine, too. Gilmore earned a crucially important birdie on No. 6 and a clinching birdie on No. 9, along with bogeys on Nos. 4, 7 and 8.
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As a result, the Crusaders — who took a one-shot lead over Minocqua Lakeland into Tuesday’s round — shot a team score of 159 to finish at 464, three strokes ahead of Lakeland.
Edgerton finished third at 476, one stroke ahead of Rice Lake, as senior Joe Forsting held on for dear life to win the individual title by one stroke at even-par 108 after shooting a 5-under-par 67 on Monday.
Gilmore wasn’t the only Crusaders player to have a big final day. Junior Karl Gilmore, James’ brother and the Crusaders’ No. 2, shot 40 on Tuesday to finish sixth overall at 113. Senior Brody Andes shot 39 for a 116 total and a tie for seventh, and Arndt shot 43 to finish at 125.
Though Gilmore’s play on No. 9 locked up the title, it really was won on the sixth hole. That’s when Edgewood took the lead for good with a four-shot turnaround, fueled mostly by the No. 1s.
“I sunk a 40-footer for Birdie, and the Lakeland kid (junior Kyle Bengston), he missed a short putt for double (bogey). That really changed the course and gave me a whole lot of confidence,” Gilmore said. “Up until that point, (Bengston) was pretty much untouchable, no mistakes at all.”
Forsting admits that he made a few mistakes on Tuesday, going 5-over par for nine holes. Playing in the final group, he said the weather delay got under his skin.
“A little bit,” he said. “There were some extra mistakes that I made that I tried to avoid. I was able to finish out (with a bogey) from the bunker on No. 9 to hold on, though.”
Rice Lake junior Simon Cuskey shot 37 to finish at 109, a stroke back of Forsting.
The rain brought a bad break for defending champion Lukas Heckmann of Lakeside Lutheran. After shooting a 38 on the front nine before the rain, he had his final nine holes called off and settled for a tie for seventh place at 116.
Columbus’ Austin Lietha shot 40 to finish 13th at 117.