2019 WIAA Division 1 state champion Kettle Moraine

Kettle Moraine figures to cast a long shadow among WIAA Division 1 state girls golf teams this fall.

We all know how this is going to end: With many of us bundled in layers staring Halloween in the face with Thanksgiving and Christmas not far behind.

For some, the much-anticipated start of the WIAA girls golf season Monday with the first practices of 2019 represents the beginning of an end that will come way too fast. By my count, it will last 65 days start-to-finish this fall, often getting squeezed for attention by the first football games at the high school (Aug. 22), college (Aug. 24) and NFL (Sept. 5) levels yet enjoying arguably the best window of weather (insert rapping knuckles on nearest piece of wood) of any outdoor sport for its competitive schedule.

The season starts with green grass, warm temperatures and fast greens — a splendid combination of awesomeness that makes it hard to go back to school by Sept. 3. It usually ends against the backdrop of autumnal colors suitable for framing and well ahead of lengthy frost delays or the dreaded s-word.

As some of you count down the days to the WIAA state tournament (Oct. 14 and 15) at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, the rest of us will relish each and every day until then and keep an eye on these five things worth watching as an intriguing 2019 season unfolds before our eyes the next nine-plus weeks.

1. Dynasties in the making?

The last time the WIAA Division 1 and 2 state champions both successfully defended their titles was in 2012, when Mequon Homestead repeated its large-schools title and Madison Edgewood won the second of four consecutive championship among the state's small schools. Well, it could happen again.

Kettle Moraine graduated two golfers (Madeline Koenig and Elizabeth Mantey) off of its Division 1 state championship team of a year ago. However, the Lasers return five golfers with varsity experience (and all logged significant hours on the WPGA Junior Tour this summer) and should be adequately prepared to handle a likely challenge from 2019 state runner-up Middleton, which brings back its top four golfers from a team that finished eight shots behind Kettle Moraine at the state tournament last fall.

In Division 2, it looks highly likely that Madison Edgewood — with its top four golfers back off a team that won the 2019 state title by 60 strokes over runner-up Appleton Xavier — will add to its record collection of gold trophies in girls golf. If successful, the Crusaders will have matched the WIAA record total (15) won by Madison West in boys golf between 1934 and 1995.

2. Wrinkles in the schedule.

Most established invitationals on the girls golf schedule seem like they have been around since the days of persimmon woods and Spalding golf balls — well, OK, maybe not that long, but at least since the second Play Station.

The Watertown Invitational. The Milton Invitational. The Sparta Invitational. The Sheboygan Invitational.  The Janesville Parker Invitational. The Fond du Lac Invitational.

All have been staples of the girls golf calendar since the turn of the century, joined in recent years by two invitationals hosted by Madison Edgewood, one jointly hosted by Mequon Homestead and Brookfield Central and still another bigee hosted by Middleton, which took it over from Madison Memorial.

This year, one of those events moves down the road while another returns to the calendar.

The Madison Edgewood/WPGA Invitational, traditionally held the first Friday of the season, will move from Yahara Hills Golf Course in Madison to Brown Deer Park GC in Milwaukee and be hosted by Franklin High School. Uncertainty over the future of Yahara Hills on top of deteriorating course conditions in recent years no doubt prompted the move, similar to the one the Wisconsin PGA Junior Championship took in 2013 after years of being played at Yahara.

Meanwhile, leave it to Brookfield Central coach Brian Scrobel to find a way to resurrect a regular-season event at University Ridge GC after a two-year absence following the termination of the Morgan Stanley Invitational. His 12-team event, to be held Sept. 3 and run with the help of the Wisconsin PGA, will give automatic spots to the 2020 event to the top six finishers of this year's events will the other six spots will be awarded to schools who apply based on performance in 2019 events and number of returning players.

3. Fresh faces around the state

We are still a year away from having Wisconsin's ultra-promising Class of 2024 join the high school ranks, so — at risk of needing to issue a spoiler alert on our Wisconsin.golf Class of 2023 girls rankings debuting in November — what can we expect from this fall's freshman class? Great question.

The undisputed No. 1 golfer in the class is Cassie Psuik, whose high school (Greenfield) doesn't offer girls golf and hasn't formed a cooperative program with a school that does. That means Psuik, who qualified for the National PGA Junior Championship this summer, will either have to play on the boys golf team in the spring — she told me this summer that her passion for softball might keep that from happening — or simply continue to play in the summer.

That leaves Hannah Dunk of Milton as the most accomplished of the incoming freshmen based on Wisconsin PGA Junior player-of-the-year standings this summer. She capped a busy schedule that featured seven top-10 finishes in 11 starts with a solid, seventh-place finish at the Morgan Stanley WPGA Junior Tour Championship at Washington County GC where she shot 79-82.

However, other freshmen to watch include: Norah Roberts (Union Grove), Grace Durkin (Green Bay Notre Dame), Riley Pechinski (Stevens Point) and Ava Salay (Prescott). But give it time. There will be more. A lot more.

4. What's with the senior-itis?

Since 2000, only five of the 19 WIAA Division 1 state individual champions have been seniors — Racine Park's Molly Redfearn (2001), Madison Edgewood's Lindsay Koth (2002), Glendale Nicolet's Tory Bauman (2008) and Milton's Ashton Stair (2010) and Mia Seeman (2017). 

That trend continued last fall when Bay Port sophomore Jo Baranczyk rallied past Hartland Arrowhead senior Emily Lauterbach, who won her state title in 2016 as a sophomore, to take medalist honors. Now a junior, Baranczyk still fits the profile of what a state champion more often is not (a senior), but she will have to do what hasn't been done since 2013 — when Verona junior Jessica Reinecke did it — and that's repeat as a Division 1 state champion.

Of course, now that the Class of 2020 likes Wauwatosa East/West's Rachel Kauflin, Franklin's Mallory Swartz, Lake Geneva Badger's Holly Murphy, Middleton's Kate Meier and Stoughton's Myranda Kotlowski have read this, they will be more motivated than ever to go out in a blaze of glory.

5. Little racket about the bracket

Remember when one of the most stressful days of the girls golf season would come months before the first tee shot was even struck, when the tournament assignments would come out and the hand-wringing would commence?

Not this year. There wasn't much angst when the brackets were posted in April and it appears the postseason balance that made for one of the most competitive boys state field in years prevails in the girls brackets, too.

As reported, Hartland Arrowhead moves from the Oshkosh West sectional to the Brookfield Central, where defending state champion Kettle Moraine departed for what was the Lake Geneva Badger sectional in 2018. Kaukauna switches sectionals, from the Green Bay Notre Dame Oshkosh West, clearing the way for Division 2 powers Fox Valley Lutheran and Luxemburg-Casco, which placed fifth at state in Division 2 in 2018, to move to Division 1. 

Four of the six Division 1 sectionals have two returning state qualifiers in them. Kettle Moraine joins Milton (eighth) and Lake Geneva Badger (11th) in the sectional it will now host while Green Bay Notre Dame will feature just one returning state qualifier in Bay Port, which placed ninth behind Baranczyk.

Luxemburg-Casco's void in Division 2 creates an opportunity in the Appleton Xavier sectional, where the host Hawks — state runners-up to Edgewood a year ago — are the only returning state qualifying team. It's too early to tab the favorite to join them, but there is time — regionals don't start until Oct. 2. 

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