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Cold Spring Swing

Northeastern Wisconsin weather keeps high school golf season short

Juliane Olson snapped this photo of Southern Door freshman Finley LaVine putting during a tournament this spring. LaVine carded an 80 in an 18-hole Sevastopol Invitational tournament this month at Horseshoe Bay Golf Club and earned All-Conference honors prior to that.

The game of golf has been called “a good walk spoiled,” and the weather on some early-spring days didn’t even make the walk pleasant for some local high school golfers.

Still, it’s pretty tough to ruin a stroll around some of the places where Door County high school golfers get to play.

“The worst conditions were when we went to Whistling Straits, as it was very cold and windy,” recalled Sturgeon Bay High School coach Erik Tauschek.

Regardless of the conditions, the Clippers can tell their friends they got to play at the same golf complex that hosted the 2021 Ryder Cup. On April 26, Sturgeon Bay golfers played the Irish Course at Whistling Straits, along with teams from Oconto, Peshtigo, Crivitz, Gillett, Laona-Wabeno, Lena, Niagara, Oneida Nation, St. Thomas Aquinas and Suring.

And that’s not the only amazing course that local golfers experienced. Courtesy of Door County’s most prestigious club, Sevastopol High School hosted its May 17 invitational tournament at Horseshoe Bay Golf Club. Teeing it up at the course south of Egg Harbor were Gibraltar, Sturgeon Bay, Sevastopol, Southern Door, Luxemburg-Casco and other teams, including a loaded Ashwaubenon squad.

Southern Door golf coach and activities director Kory Mallien said that playing Horseshoe Bay, as well as the other excellent courses in the county, is a great experience for both the inexperienced and accomplished golfers. And that’s what matters in northeastern Wisconsin, Mallien said – especially with the short season.

High school golf started April 15, but for most of that month, Mallien had the team practicing as best it could inside the elementary school gym. Cold, wet conditions kept the team off its home course, Idlewild, in early April, and Cherry Hills general manager Jon Martell welcomed the team to practice there.

Mallien said Martell, Idlewild head professional Brandon Hansen, and other course owners have been extremely accommodating to all of the schools, whether that’s Peninsula State Park Golf Course (Gibraltar’s home track), The Orchards (which hosts Sevastopol at times) and Cherry Hills (used by Sevastopol and Southern Door).

In northern and northeastern Wisconsin, the five-week-long high school golf season doesn’t last long enough to thoroughly teach and transform novices into better-than-bogey golfers, Mallien said, but “it’s enough time to provide an understanding of golf.”

fGolfers from more than a dozen high schools warmed up before a Sevastopol Invitational round at Horseshoe Bay Golf Club on May 17. Photo by Craig Sterrett.

They teach the beginners the rules, the course markings and stakes, etiquette, a proper grip, basic chipping moves and how to swing more inside out instead of outside in to prevent bad slices. Mallien doesn’t expect every player to become extremely competitive at the sport, but he said it’s a game they can enjoy for many years after high school. It can also help with social skills. 

Four of the 13 team members, including three girls, are new to the sport.

“They’re good kids, and they love golf, and they want to learn the game,” Mallien said.

Southern Door had not won a meet in many years, but the team recorded a victory at its own invitational tournament at Idlewild. Each of the six schools in the conference won a meet this season, with none of them dominating.

Longtime Gibraltar High School coach Matt Meacham knows what it’s like to have a full team winning most of the local meets. The Vikings won eight Division III regional championships in a row at one point, and two of Meacham’s teams qualified for the state meet.

This year, Gibraltar has only two players on the team: freshman Finn Salm, who carded an 89 at Horseshoe Bay; and sophomore Teddy Roth, who had a 91. Meacham said it’s not unusual for schools in the region to have large teams some years and small ones other years. For example, Peshtigo had a full, outstanding team with golfers who qualified for state last year, but it has just three players this year.

“It’s a cyclical thing,” Meacham said.

Both Salm and Roth show great promise, and Salm has quite a bit of junior golf competition experience and takes the sport seriously. Those individuals, and area teams, were looking forward to regional tournaments during the week of May 23-27.

The Sturgeon Bay Clippers have not had trouble recording full team scores and finished second in their conference this season, led by Elijah Bailey and Isaak Aune, who was named first-team All-Conference. Nine students, including six freshmen, went out for the Sturgeon Bay team this year, plus three others who participated in baseball or track and could not make it to many meets.

“We are definitely built for the future,” Tauscher said.

At Southern Door, Idlewild’s Hansen and Coach Mallien both say freshman Finley LaVine has shown a lot of potential. He recorded an 80 in Sevastopol’s 18-hole event at Horseshoe Bay and placed fourth in the conference meet, earning All-Conference honors along with the other top-six finishers.

Mallien said Jacob Norton, an outstanding swimmer and two-spring-sport athlete, remained in the No. 1 position on the Southern Door team. Norton also earned first-team All-Conference honors in golf this spring.