Homework pays off for NHS golfers

During their practice round at Pheasant Hills Golf Course earlier this week, seniors Sam Knapp and Reece Bartelt took a very measured approach to their golf game. Playing in the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament, the Northwestern High School g...

Northwestern Golf
Northwestern Tigers golf coach Gary Swanson, left, along with players, from left, Ian Lattery, Aaron Corry, Sam Knapp, Gabe Dinkel and Justin Alexson, listen to Reece Bartelt, right, talk during a pepfest held at Northwestern High School on Wednesday for the golf team and track team. (Jed Carlson/

During their practice round at Pheasant Hills Golf Course earlier this week, seniors Sam Knapp and Reece Bartelt took a very measured approach to their golf game. Playing in the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament, the Northwestern High School golfers did what anyone under pressure would do, they became cartographers.

"I kind of made some contour maps," Bartelt said, shrugging. "I drew all the slopes, and then while I was doing that Sam paced off the greens from front to back to give us the depth of them."

Golf coach Gary Swanson also pitched in for the map-making effort. The morning of the sectional meet, he took a laser range-finder and determined exact distances from the pins to the landing areas.

By the time they were finished, each of the Tigers had photocopied contour maps for the entire course.

"It really helped them to confidently pull the right club, all through the day," Swanson said.


"I was the only one in my group with (a map), and it helped big time," Knapp agreed.

"You can't say we weren't well-prepared," Bartelt said. "And we're doing it again (in Madison). I like doing that homework."

The two seniors' studious approach to golf isn't that unexpected. Knapp and Bartelt both excel in the classroom and have been named Academic All-State honorees for boy's golf this spring.

"I think golf, of all the sports we have, dovetails the best with what we're trying to achieve in the classroom," Swanson said. "It's a sport where you can use all of the skills from the classroom and apply them."

Joining Knapp and Bartelt in the state tournament Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison are freshmen Gabe Dinkel and Justin Alexson and fellow senior Aaron Corry. Ian Lattery, a sophomore, will serve as the alternate for Northwestern at the state meet.

Aside from Coach Swanson, only Bartelt has played on the University Ridge course before. Alexson has walked it when watching his sisters play, but the greens will be entirely new for all of the other golfers.

Playing in a state competition will also be a new experience for most of the Tigers, but two of the senior golfers have already been to one state tournament this year. Aaron Corry and Bartelt traveled to Madison with the basketball team in the spring.

How does it feel to be going to another state tournament as a senior?


"Awesome's a good way of putting it," Corry said. "It's different than basketball because it's a shorter process; there aren't multiple regionals and multiple sectionals, so it kind of sneaks up on you. But it's kind of hit me now and it's like, wow."

"It's a good feeling," Bartelt said. "We came up short last year and that was one of our goals, to make it (to state). Now we've finally got it and our hard work paid off."

"We went from dead last in the conference our freshman year," Knapp said. "Dead last. Now we're going to state."

This year, the Tigers claimed the Heart O' North Conference title and are also sectional champions, winning Tuesday's meet with a team score of 322, seven strokes better than second-place finisher Mosinee.

"These two helped out a lot," Lattery said, nodding toward Dinkel and Alexson. "We were good last year, but they made us a lot better."

Throughout this season, Alexson and Dinkel have risen to the challenge of playing on a team with three senior teammates. The freshmen have more than held their own, as they proved in the sectional meet.

"I think it helps me to have one of my friends on the team who is also a freshman," Dinkel said. "It helped me push myself to get better this year and just try to keep up with the seniors that have more experience than both of us."

"They pushed the seniors too to make their games better, and that helped the whole team," Lattery said.


Windy conditions caused trouble for many golfers in the sectional contest. Knapp said some of the greens were fast enough that a wind gust could make golfers' putts break. But Northwestern had played the course before, and that experience came through on the back nine.

"For myself personally, I had a rough front nine," Corry said. He shot a 44 on the front nine and then finished up with a 39 to card an 83 for the day. "It was just a matter of forgetting what had happened on the front and just focusing on what I was able to control. So I just took it hole by hole, shot by shot. The whole team did that."

After the first nine holes, Cumberland, Mosinee and Black River Falls all were ahead of the Tiger, who shot a 165. On the back nine, nearly all of the Northwestern golfers shaved strokes off their game to come in with a 157 for a total team score of 322. All the Tigers could do then was wait as the other team scores came in.

"It was a little hard to wait as long as we did," Swanson said. "I think we probably waited a couple of hours."

Alexson then had to golf in a three-whole playoff with Jared Kowalski, a senior from Mosinee, for first place. The freshman had been keeping busy on the driving range since finishing his round, and he managed to beat Kowalski by one stroke to be named the meet medalist with a 78.

The win marks the second for Alexson this season on the Pheasant Hills Golf Course. He was also the medalist at the Somerset Invite held in April. Alexson can't explain exactly why he has done so well on the course, but he thinks it is partly because it favors the long game.

"It just suits my game," he said. "I can pound the driver off the tee and it doesn't matter where it goes."

Alexson can only hope the University Ridge course in Madison fits at well with his style of play.


"I've walked the course three times now, so it's time to play it," Alexson said. "I've been waiting for it for a while."

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