MADISON – Drake Wilcox has so much confidence in his short game that he feels if he gets his tee shot in play and his approach shot somewhere near the green, he’s making par.
The junior at Sheboygan Lutheran High School put his short game to work Monday in the first round of the WIAA Division 3 state tournament and shot a 2-under 70 to take a commanding six-stroke lead into the final round Tuesday.
After a runner-up finish as a freshman and a third-place finish last year, Wilcox is one solid round away from the individual title.
“I’m just going to go to bed early and pretend I’m re-starting and just get another good round in there,” he said. “Just think positive. I know what I can do out here.”
Manitowoc Roncalli senior Ian Behringer, Madison Abundant Life / Country Day senior Jack Rollins and individual qualifier Doyle Kelly, a senior at Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs, all shot 76s. Kelly was the D2 runner-up last year.
Roncalli shot 330 to lead the team standings; 2018 runner-up Abundant Life / Country Day was five shots back at 335 and Sheboygan Lutheran was third at 342.
Wilcox was 1-over par through four holes, but birdied Nos. 5, 6, 9 and 11 and finished off his round with seven consecutive pars.
His only other bogey came on the par-3 eighth, a hole that has always given him trouble.
“Last year, I think I went bogey the first time I played it and double-bogey the second,” he said. “That par-3 has always kind of haunted me. It’s the hardest hole on the course, in my opinion. The yardage is so hard to get down. I wanted to club up extra just to make sure I wasn’t in the hazard.”
His tee shot went long, he chipped to 6 feet and missed the downhill, sliding putt.
Otherwise, his putter was rock solid. He rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole, a 25-footer on the sixth and chipped close on the par-5 ninth and 11th holes, converting both putts for birdies.
He also made crucial, back-to-back par saves on Nos 12 and 13. The first was a 6-foot, downhill slider and the second was an 8-foot comebacker after he blew his first putt past the hole. On each of the last five holes, he had a tap-in for par.
“I think the strength of my game is really short game,” he said. “As long as my drive is in play and my iron shot winds up close to the green, I can make par saves. There’s a lot of hard holes here and there’s always a lot of hard iron shots into greens. But if I miss the green, the biggest thing with my game is I can chip close and tap it in for a par.”
The forecast for Tuesday called for morning showers.
“Our whole entire golf season has been terrible weather, every single meet,” Wilcox said. “I’m ready for it. If we get a delay it might be a little frustrating but I should get past it and hopefully it will all be good.”