Wildcats finish 5th, STAA’s Bailey ties for 11th at State Tourney

Josh Staloch

KOHLER – Playing the picturesque but very challenging Blackwolf Run - Meadow Valleys course in Kohler on Monday and Tuesday, June 3rd and 4th, the Lena High boys golf team finished the WIAA Division 3 State Tournament in 5th place, only one stroke behind 4th place Bonduel and just three strokes off of Cambridge High School in third place. Individually, St. Thomas Aquinas Academy senior Kaiden Bailey, making his fourth-straight appearance at the State Tournament, finished in a two-way tie for 11th.

“Our team did not feel they played all that well, but I reminded them of our scores last year,” said Lena head coach John Moe, whose Wildcats improved on this season’s day two score by 25 strokes over last year’s performance at State. “To improve that much just shows the growth of our team. The course is just so hard, the scores are bigger than we’re used to scoring.”

A heavy rain moved in through the area and suspended play for a couple of hours on Monday, forcing the Division 3 group to call it a day after nine holes.

The Wildcats shot a 172 on the abridged opening day, which put them in a tie for 5th with St. Mary’s Springs, followed by a 348 on Tuesday for a team total of 520 through 88 holes played in the tournament. 

Branden McVane finished in a four-way tie for 7th place with a card of 119 over the tournament’s two days to finish +11 on the par 72 Meadow Valleys course.

Mason Belongia’s 131 (+23) put him in a four-way tie for 29th. Mason Spice was close behind with a 132, good enough to put him in a four-way tie for 33rd.

Drake Dione shot a 140 (+32) to come in a two-way tie for 44th and Evan VanderZanden’s card of 147 (+39) left him in a two-way tie for 48th.

Coach Moe reflected briefly on how each of his golfers performed at State.

“Mason Spice chipped in a majestic chip of about sixty feet across an undulating green to start out our event,” he said. “I watched that and said ‘Wow, maybe this is our year’. He also made an incredible eagle on the second day with a hole out from about 100 yards.”

Coach Moe noted that the Meadow Valleys course has its own way of fighting back and that his golfers did well to play through the challenges brought by the geography of the course as well as through the wind and the rain on Day 1.

“Mason Belongia was very consistent over the two days, carding three low 40 rounds. Drake and Evan had great moments and some tough ones. The tournament had a little bit of everything including some controversy,” said coach Moe. “If not for a two stroke penalty that an over zealous coach flagged Braden for, he would have finished in 4th place. It is a shame that his goal of making the podium was taken away from him on a technicality that can be interpreted in many ways.  It does not take away from an incredible round and an incredible career at Lena that Braden has had!”

Coach Moe added that the community’s support has meant a lot to the Wildcats and their success this year. 

“I would like to thank all the parents,grandparents, students, and teachers that made the trip down to State. It made it that much more special for our team.”

Competing in his fourth State Tournament, Kaiden Bailey of STAA used his consistent and powerful drive to finish with a total of 120 (+12)  for his share of 11th place.

First year Cavaliers coach Tom Drees had nothing but positive things to say about Bailey’s run this season.

“I’m very glad I got to sort of see him through his final year,” coach Drees said of Bailey, who will begin his college career in Wauwatosa where he will play golf at Bryant & Stratton College as a Bobcat. “It was nice to see him finish evolving as a high school golfer. Over these last few years, he’s been very consistent.”

Drees was also impressed with Bailey’s ability to deal with the pressure of the event.

“For myself, my first time ever being there, at Blackwolf Run, it was mind-blowing how large of an area the course covers. The size of the practice greens, they’re enormous. It’s a top-notch course that many golfers only dream of playing. It’s a great experience and Kaiden did a very good job of staying focused the whole time.”

Drees is confident Bailey’s game will continue to improve when he reaches the collegiate level. 

“His drives are really powerful,” coach Drees noted. “He has all of the mechanics for a lot of distance off the tee. It’s just that one, maybe two holes per round that he’ll have a little trouble with, where his putting is a bit off, that keeps him from finishing bigger at State. Unfortunately, this year, the weather wasn’t cooperating at all. He was going on a run, he was one over par going into the two-hour rain delay. But then, on the eighth hole, a par three, he hit the green and left himself with about a 20-foot putt, but he four-putted it. The disruption of the weather to the flow of action really had an effect.”


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