REEDSBURG – While waiting for one of his playing partners to putt out on the seventh green at Reedsburg Country Club on Wednesday, Kaeden Nomm walked over to his father and pretty much guaranteed victory in the Wisconsin State Golf Association Junior Boys Championship.
“He came up to me and said, ‘You better take some pictures. They’re going to need them for the paper at home,’” Peter Nomm said. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s confidence. I guess he’s in a good state.’”
With stellar ball-striking and a hot putter leading to a clinical dissection of Reedsburg, Kaeden made good on his promise. The rising senior at Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua fired a 5-under 67 and cruised to victory in the state’s premier junior tournament.
That should be good for a banner headline in the Lakeland Times.
Nomm finished the 54-hole event at 8-under 208, five shots clear of Jacob Beckman of Middleton, a University of Wisconsin recruit who started the day as the co-leader and finished solo second at 213.
With Marquette University golf coach Steve Bailey following him Tuesday and new UW coach Mike Wilson watching Wednesday, Nomm, who has not yet received a D1 scholarship offer, rose to the occasion after stumbling down the stretch in the second round.
“They were watching me the whole time, so I had to play some good golf,” he said. “I think they saw some good things from me.”
Did they ever. Nomm birdied both par-5s on the front nine, two-putting on No. 4 after hitting the green with a 4-iron and rolling a 12-foot downhill slider on No. 7, set up by a wedge from 110 yards.
Behind him, in the final threesome, Beckman and Aiden Cudney, a 15-year-old rising sophomore at Kimberly High School, had gotten off to slow starts after beginning the round tied for the lead at 4-under.
Cudney double-bogeyed the first hole and bogeyed the third and Beckman made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 3 and 4. After reaching the front fringe in two on the latter, Beckman needed a pitch, a chip and two putts to find the hole.
“Truly a mental mistake,” he said of his first pitch, which didn’t reach the green. “I should have just hit it to 15 feet and tried to make the putt from there. I tried to get cute with it and flop it on the front edge and let it roll out. It wasn’t the right shot selection.”
Nomm, who was checking the leaderboard on his phone every few holes, realized he was in the lead as he played the fifth hole.
“I saw that Beckman made two bogeys and I think I was winning by two or three at that point,” he said. “From that point on, I was feeling good and just kept making birdies and pars.”
He hit the green in two on the par-5 11th and two putted from 18 feet. His second shot on the par-4 13th finished 5 feet from the hole and he rolled that one into the heart. He chipped to 3 feet on the par-5 16th and made that one. Finally, he poured in an 18-footer on No. 17.
“I was just trying to play my game,” Nomm said. “I knew the holes on the back nine were pretty easy other than just a few. I was just trying to play solid golf and play safe, if anything, at that point. Not try to get too risky with my shots. I knew I was going to keep playing solid golf.”
With a six-shot lead on the 18th tee, Nomm never considered leaving driver in the bag and playing safe with an iron on the 335-yard par-4.
“No, not at all,” he said. “I was just going to let loose with driver and have some fun.”
He bombed his drive long and right, into the tree line about 40 yards from the green. His punch shot rolled to a stop some 30 feet from the hole, he lagged his birdie attempt 3 feet by and then he made his only mistake of the day, missing the comebacker for par. With a sheepish grin, he tapped in for his only bogey of the day.
“I’m not too mad about it,” he said. “And I’ll give Mason the low round of the day.”
Mason Schmidtke of Sheboygan made seven birdies and shot a 6-under 66, low round of the tournament, to finish fifth alone.
Beckman came back with a 34 on the back nine to post a 73 and finish second. Cudney (74) and Ty Kretz of Marinette (71) tied for third at 2-under 214.
“Definitely disappointed,” Beckman said. “I didn’t get the win, but I learned a lot about myself and my game. I continue to show I can bring it back and finish my rounds. Now, I need to go work on how to get out and start hot right out of the gate.”
For Nomm, the victory was especially satisfying considering he held a three-stroke lead at the turn Tuesday but shot a 40 on the back nine, bogeying the final three holes. He’d eaten breakfast but not lunch and struggled physically down the stretch.
“I ate a little more today, yeah,” he said. “I had a good breakfast this morning and I had a granola bar on the course. I ate only a little bit yesterday, a little breakfast. Lunch was here (at the course) and I didn’t want to eat that because I just had breakfast. So that was about six hours of not eating, after eating very little breakfast.”
Said Peter Nomm, “Sometimes, you’ve got to learn what your body wants and adjust and do things differently. It was good to see him come back. I think he really wanted it after that finish yesterday.”
Kaeden switched irons earlier this year, going with a stronger shaft that gives him a lower ball flight and better distance control. He switched putters two weeks ago.
“He got that putter rolling today,” said Peter Nomm, the former head PGA professional at Minocqua Country Club. “That’s what he’s been missing most of the year. As he plays in more and more events, he’s growing in confidence and there’s nothing more important than that. He wants to keep improving. He’s set some good goals.”
Nomm joined a list of WSGA Junior champions that includes John Pallin, Bob Gregorski, Steve Stricker, Mark Wilson, Hunter Eichhorn and Piercen Hunt.
“It means a lot,” he said. “This is probably the biggest tournament of the summer. Everyone’s here and it’s three days. You’ve got to play well for three days and that’s something not everyone can do, so I’m very proud to be up there.”