There is something to be said for plying one's craft in the shadows of others.
Doubters are referred to Abby Cavaiani, the Kettle Moraine senior who spent 2016 chasing Hartland Arrowhead's Emily Lauterbach in her conference and Milton's Mia Seeman in her class. Both rivals inspired Cavaiani to put in the extra effort through the winter and make 2017 a year to remember.
The Missouri State recruit wrestled player-of-the-year honors away from Lauterbach in the talent-rich Classic 8 Conference with the score heard 'round Wisconsin (her 12-under-par 60 at Broadlands GC in North Prairie). Cavaiani out-pointed Seeman in the Wisconsin PGA Junior player-of-the-year standings, compiling a body of work worthy of also jumping the South Dakota State recruit in the updated Wisconsin.Golf rankings for the girls Class of 2018.
It needs to be stated up front that Cavaiani did not appear out of nowhere.
Her 2016 resume was solid. She had nine top-10 finishes in 10 stroke-play events on the WPGA Junior Tour, including a victory at the WPGA Junior Tour Championship where she shot a pair of 75s and closed the summer with an impressive victory over three NCAA Division I-bound golfers — Alexis Thomas of Middleton (now at North Dakota State), Ashley Kulka of Beaver Dam (now at UW-Green Bay) and Lauterbach (headed to Wisconsin in 2019). She also finished a respectable sixth at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.
Her 2017 credentials were spectacular. Cavaiani had seven top-five finishes in the seven in-state stroke-play junior events she played, including victories at three big ones — the WPGA Junior Championship, the Morgan Stanley WPGA Junior Tour Championship and the girls-only SentryWorld Classic — before finishing second to Seeman at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.
Of course, her signature moment came at the Classic 8 Championship.
A year ago, Lauterbach (72) edged Cavaiani (73) to earn player-of-the-year honors after the two came into the conference meet with identical scoring averages. This year, Cavaiani led Lauterbach going into the Classic 8 Championship, shot 30 on the front nine and matched it on the back to shoot what is certain to be a state-record 60 — the WIAA has never tracked such milestones so, therefore, most prep records in the state in all sports are unofficial — and outdistance Lauterbach, who made eight birdies in a round of 67.
Cavaiani also turned int a breakthrough performance at the 42nd Junior Girls PGA Championship where she shot 74-73-76-70 and finished tied for 40th. She was the lone Wisconsin golfer (North Dakota State-bound Taylor McCorkle of Oregon and Seeman were the others) to make the cut.
Suffice it to say the Class of 2018 will be remembered for making each other better.
Cavaiani is the third golfer in as many updates to hold down the No. 1 ranking. Mequon Homestead's Speedy Kent was No. 1 in the debut ranking in January of 2016 and Seeman grabbed the top spot in November of that year.
This year, Seeman and Kent, a Wofford (S.C.) recruit, were Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, while Loyola (Illinois) recruit Lorenza Martinez and Franklin's Courtney Matschke, the highest-ranked uncommitted golfer in the class, rounded out the top five.
Two UW-Green Bay recruits — Mequon Homestead's Isabelle Maleki (No. 5) and Verona's Lauren Shorter (No. 10) — bookend the second five. Also in that group are: uncommitted Erika Priebe of Fox Valley Lutheran (No. 7), Valparaiso recruit Payton Hodson of Middleton (No. 8), uncommitted Emily Balding of Brookfield Central and uncommitted Erin Ericson of Onalaska, who shared the No. 10 spot at the WIAA Division 1 state meet with Shorter and does so in the Wisconsin.Golf rankings for this year's senior class.
This class has at least 10 scholarship golfers in the class going down to No. 31 Alexa Owen of Jefferson, who is expected to sign Wednesday with NCAA Division II St. Cloud (Minn.) State. With 20 of the top 30 golfers yet to announce their college plans, this class stands to make as big an impact the next four years as it did the four to get to this point.