MADISON — Kate Meier and the rest of the Middleton girls golf team would love to have said the opening round of the WIAA Division 1 state tournament was good to the last drop Monday. But it wasn't good until the last drop.
Meier dropped the 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth hole, her final hole, that didn't right all the wrongs that seemed to dominate on a long opening day. But it did leave the Cardinals (330) with a one-shot lead on surprising Hartland Arrowhead entering Tuesday's final round at University Ridge.
That was just the start of the drama. Defending champ Kettle Moraine (333) and Brookfield Central (337) were still within seven shots of Middleton's lead after a wild and crazy first round that ended with 10 golfers within six strokes of leader Sarah Balding of Brookfield Central (72) in the medalist chase.
None of which Middleton coach Becky Halverson made known to Meier as the Loyola (Ill.) recruit tried to avoid the rollercoaster ride many golfers took once the frost lifted after a 90-minute delay and first-round play got underway.
"Becky never shares anything while we're playing, just to keep us at bay with our nerves," said Meier, whose 76 left her tied for fourth place with Oconomowoc's Grace Suter, Wauwatosa East/West's Rachel Kauflin and Stoughton's Myranda Kotlowski, four shots behind Balding. "Hopefully, we can just play each shot to the best of our abilities and that's exactly what we did (Monday). I wanted to finish strong on this (second) nine. I had a few tough holes, but I bounced back and I'm grateful for my three birdies on the back nine so, going into (Tuesday), I just want to keep that same energy going."
Middleton also counted a 79 from junior Glenna Sanderson, an 87 from Ellie Frisch and an 88 from senior Makenzie Hodson. It tossed a 95 from Milanne Dahmen, a sophomore who lost 13 of her 23 shots to par on two holes.
"I keep focusing with them on one shot at a time and not worry about the shots that didn't go the way that they had hoped they would go," Halverson said her 2018 state runners-up. "They just really stuck to that. They all had some struggle holes and they all came back. We did well at keeping in it."
Survival seemed to be the popular activity among the state's top golfers.
Some lived to tell about overcoming the adversity that University Ridge dealt them. Others were forced to wait until Tuesday to find their redemption.
Cedarburg junior Elise Hoven tripled-bogeyed No. 10 to begin her day, but made four birdies and four bogeys the rest of the way to shoot 75. That was good for a share of second place with Waukesha Catholic Memorial senior Meredith Boos, who made the first birdie of the day at No. 1 only to triple bogey No. 2, bogey No. 4 and double-bogey No. 6 to drop to 5-over, forcing her to rally with three birdies on the back nine (Nos. 11, 15 and 17) before stalling with a bogey at No. 18.
"I think I did put a little pressure on myself," Hoven said. "Obviously, it's state. I think everybody wants to win. I would love to do well in this. I think the pressure did get to me, but I'm happy how I was able to save it a little."
Defending state champion Jo Baranczyk of Bay Port tried to do the same. She bogeyed five holes in a row making the turn and fell to 8-over at one point before birdieing Nos. 6 and 9 to finish strong.
It was one of those days for Lake Geneva Badger's Holly Murphy (86), twice a top-10 finisher at the state tournament, after the North Dakota State recruit took four shots to get out of a bunker en route to a 10 on the par-5 ninth hole. It wasn't much better for Stoughton's Caylie Kotlowski, a junior who finished fourth here last year, but made three double-bogeys in a row starting at No. 3 and triple-bogeyed the par-3 17th hole en route to an 89 that left her alone in 38th place.
"I don't know that I noticed a palpable difference between the course last year and this year," said Kauflin, who was third a year ago but made just one par on her first nine this year around five bogeys and three birdies. "The state tournament does bring unique pressure and it's hard for anybody to ignore that. ... If you put yourself in the right spots, you definitely have a chance to make a lot of birdies. But you definitely can get yourself in a lot of trouble very quickly."