Emily Lauterbach put a lot of distance between herself and other Wisconsin girls golfers in the Class of 2019 a year ago when, as a sophomore, the Hartland Arrowhead standout won the WIAA Division I state championship by five strokes over North Dakota State-bound Alexis Thomas of Middleton.
That gap hasn't shrunk much, if at all, over the last 12 months.
Lauterbach took third behind seniors Mia Seeman of Milton and Abby Cavaiani of Kettle Moraine in defense of her WIAA state title last month at University Ridge GC in Madison. But that didn't keep her from continuing to be a decisive No. 1 in the updated Wisconsin.Golf ranking of this year's junior class.
Again playing a modest summer schedule, Lauterbach shined in the big events she did play and finished seventh in the WPGA Junior player-of-the-year points standings despite playing in just six points events.
She finished second to Seeman at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational and placed third behind Cavaiani and defending champion Taylor McCorkle of Oregon at the WPGA Junior Championship early in the summer. Lauterbach teamed with Bay Port's Jo Baranczyk — the top-ranked golfer by in the Class of 2021 — to finish second to McCorkle and Thomas at the WPGA Junior Bestball.
She also finished third behind Madelyn Johns of Austin, Texas, at the AJGA WinCraft/McArthur Towel & Sports Future Legends tournament at the Legend at The Legend at Brandybrook GC in Waukesha in mid-July. To cap her summer, she finished shot 72 at Cherokee CC in Madison to qualify second at the WWSGA/WPGA Junior Girls Match Play and then lost to Seeman in 19 holes in the finals after edging edged Cavaiani 1-up in the semifinals.
University of Wisconsin coach Todd Oehrlein recognized the talent Lauterbach possesses and made her his first in-state scholarship recruit since 2015 when she orally committed to play for the Badgers in September. She is the first Wisconsin golfer in the Class of 2019 to make her college intentions known.
It remains to be seen whether the Class of 2019 turns out as many scholarship golfers as the Class of 2018 has (currently 10 and counting).
Eau Claire Memorial's Lexi Meade continued to hold down the No. 2 spot, but well behind Lauterbach despite finishing third in the WPGA Junior player-of-the-year points standings. After tough showings at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational (86-79) and WPGA Junior Championship (90-78), Meade was exceptional in WPGA Players Tour events (winning twice) and at the 2017 College Showcase where she shot a par of 78s and won by 13 strokes.
This fall, Meade won the Big Rivers Conference title and earned conference player-of-the-year honors for the second year in a row before winning the New Richmond regional and Wisconsin Rapids sectional with 76s. However, she struggled at the WIAA state meet, shooting rounds of 80 and 81 to finish 16th place, a five-spot drop over her state showing as a sophomore.
Milton's Taylor Hakala, who skipped the WPGA Junior circuit this summer but teamed with Seeman to help Milton finish second at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, moved up one spot into the No. 3 spot in the Class of 2019 rankings. Eau Claire North's Sydney Brown, who won three events on the WPGA Junior Tour this summer and battled Meade throughout the fall, was No. 4 and WIAA Division 2 state runner-up Emily Neff of Hayward was No. 5.
La Crosse Aquinas' Annie Balduzzi, Kettle Moraine's Madeline Koenig, Janesville Parker's Sophia Dooman, Waunakee's Samantha Soulier and New Richmond's Maggie Veenendall rounded out the top 10. Like Hakala, Koenig formed a strong 1-2 punch for Kettle Moraine with senior Abby Cavaiani, the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin player of the year.
That there were 17 girls who weren't ranked as sophomores in last year's top 25 rankings speaks to the progress the Class of 2019 made as a group this year. In fact, each golfer between Nos. 11 and 20 showed potential to be a top-10 golfer at some point during the summer and fall, which bodes well for continued changes behind Lauterbach as the rankings develop in 2018.