Throughout his 5½-year tenure as UW-Green Bay women's golf coach, Lee Reinke has seen a few players come into the program and a few go.
2021-22 UW-Green Bay women's golf roster
|Caylie Kotlowski||Fr.||Stoughton, Wis.||Three-time WIAA Div. 1 state qualifier (T-3 in 2021)|
|Ashley Kulka||R-Sr.||Beaver Dam, Wis.||Two-time top-15 finisher at Horizon League Ch'ship|
|Isabelle Maleki||Sr.||Mequon, Wis.||Has 79.56 stroke average in 50 career rounds|
|Courtney Matschke||R-Sr.||Franklin, Wis.||Has lowered stroke average each of three seasons|
|Lauren Shorter||R-Sr.||Fitchburg, Wis.||5 knee surgeries since HS have delayed UWGB debut|
|Katie Warpinski||Sr.||Green Bay, Wis.||2021 T-4 Horizon League finish best in program history|
|Grace Welch||R-Fr.||Madison, Wis.||2019 WIAA Division 2 state champion (Edgewood HS)|
But Dick and Nancy Matschke, it seems, have always been there — following their granddaughter Courtney, a fourth-year junior from Franklin, and cheering for everyone in a Phoenix polo.
"On the road, they'd show up and it didn't make a difference if it was Ohio, Nebraska, they'd always be there — any state," Reinke said.
They even showed up in Simpsonville, Ky., two years ago when George Kneiser — a member of the UWGB men's golf team — qualified for the NCAA Division I regional to watch the Horizon League champion tee it up in what was a watershed moment for the Phoenix. "We're walking down No. 8 and I go 'Holy crap, George, look behind the green! I think that's Dick and Nancy Matschke.' Here they drove up from Florida just to watch him play."
There will be a significant void in the UWGB gallery Monday in Brookings, S.D., when Courtney Matschke and her teammates open the 2020-21 season at the South Dakota State Invitational. Dick Matschke won't be there to cheer on the Phoenix contingent; he died Aug. 15 — "played his last mulligan" as his obituary put it — at the age of 81.
However, Dick Matschke will be there in spirit. As a surprise to Courtney, Reinke had pins ordered with a picture of her grandfather and they will adorn the UWGB golf bags as a way for those carrying them to remember someone who was looking forward to this season as they were.
"Sometimes, a major thing in your life can, short term, ... really dictate how things go," Reinke said. "I think Courtney is going to have a great fall; I really do. Even in qualifying, she's been determined. It's kind of hard to explain."
Anyone who has been around Reinke since he added the women's golf team to his men's coaching duties in March of 2016 — and helped the Phoenix get through back-to-back last-place finishes in the Horizon League in 2016 and '17 — gets it. There is a sense of family in his program and it's been a very stable, very familiar and very small family in today's college sports world of transfer portals, early graduations and other factors that lead to roster change.
Since the start of the 2018-19 season, seven golfers have combined to play in every match (20 of them) for the Phoenix. Alix Larson graduated after the COVID-shortened 2019-20 season and Lori Meyer and Leah Hansen departed after the COVID-delayed 2020-21 season.
Katie Warpinski and Isabelle Maleki will depart after this season, which means they get one more run through the schedule with Matschke and fellow junior Ashley Kulka. That might also explain why Reinke got a little choked up talking about losing Matschke's grandfather because he knows how close his cast of characters has become.
"Lori and Leah are going to be missed, but it's just a great mix of personalities," Reinke said of his veterans. "They get along so well."
While some see this season as a bridge from one breakthrough era to another — highly touted recruits Jenna Anderson of Dousman and Ellie Frisch of Middleton are poised to join the program next fall and similar in-state targets in the Class of 2023 have already been identified — Reinke knows this team has the potential to be very special in its own right. Warpinski (T-4), Kulka (T-8), Matschke (T-14) and Maleki (T-16) were the Phoenix's top finishers at the Horizon League Championship, moved to West Lafayette, Ind., for one year due to COVID-19 restrictions, and will help UWGB match the tremendous experience at Youngstown State and IUPU-Indianapolis, who finished 1-2 in the league and return nine of 10 golfers between them (only Horizon League medalist Kaitlyn Shott of Youngstown State has graduated).
Highly regarded freshman Caylie Kotlowski of Stoughton qualified for the No. 5 spot and will fill Meyer's hole in the Phoenix lineup. Redshirt freshman Grace Welch, the 2019 WIAA Division 2 state champion from Madison Edgewood, will compete as an individual and fill Hansen's role of pushing the five golfers in the lineup for playing time. (Senior Lauren Shorter of Fitchburg, who has yet to play for UWGB after 3½ years and five knee surgeries, was cleared to chip and putt for the first time last week and hopes to get the green light for full swings by November.)
"After three years, there will be somebody new sitting next to me in the passenger's seat, which is weird," Reinke said. "But even though (Meyer and Hansen) are gone, I don't think we're going to miss a beat. It's so business-like with them; it's hard to explain. I think it will pick up right where it left off in the spring."