Few have done more over the last four years to elevate her prominence in Wisconsin junior girls golf circles than Rachel Kauflin.
The Wauwatosa East/West junior has competed in a staggering 76 WPGA Junior points events in that span and won 27 of them. Since competing in her first WPGA-sanctioned events in 2012, Kauflin has teed it up in 92 tournaments and has been credited with a whopping 39 victories.
Her work in 2018 has vaulted her to the top of the girls Class of 2020 in the latest update of the Wisconsin.Golf junior rankings. She is the third No. 1 in as many updates for this class, following Lake Geneva Badger’s Holly Murphy in 2017 and Madison Edgewood’s Grace Welch in 2016.
However, the race for the top is only now starting to heat up.
Kauflin, who was No. 5 in last year’s Wisconsin.Golf update of the Class of 2020 rankings, ascended to No. 1 with a breakout summer highlighted by a six-shot victory against a strong field at the Sherri Steinhauer Invitational in Madison and capped by a third-place finish at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament. One stroke off the lead after an opening 73 at University Ridge, Kauflin couldn’t match the birdie-fest between Bay Port’s Jo Baranczyk and Hartland Arrowhead’s Emily Lauterbach, shot 77 and finished eight shots behind Baranczyk, the No. 1 golfer in Wisconsin.Golf’s Class of 2021 rankings who played her final nine holes in 4-under.
Still, Kauflin’s presence near the top of the leaderboard in the final event of the year reflected the great strides she made from the start of the summer. Inconsistency from hole-to-hole and round-to-round plagued her at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational, the Wisconsin Women’s State Open and, especially, the WPGA Junior Championship, where she shot 97-82, tying for 36th.
That would be the last time she finished outside the top five in a WPGA Junior points event. In addition to her win at the Sherri Steinhauer, where she shot a pair of 74s at Blackhawk Country Club and Pleasant View Golf Course, Kauflin also won a two-day WPGA Players Tour event at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia with a pair of 78s, WPGA Junior Tour events at Dretzka Park and Oakwood Park and a Tour Edge Milwaukee County Parks Series event at Currie Park. In the 18 stroke-play rounds following the WPGA Junior Championship, she broke 80 in 15 of them.
The great promise Kauflin showed toward the end of her summer was even more noteworthy because the Class of 2020, as a group, enjoyed a phenomenal showing at the WIAA state tournament, which — at 5,216 yards at University Ridge GC — isn’t the most daunting course set-up they face, but — with by far the most spectators — might be the most nerve-wracking.
Swartz and Murphy, who share the No. 2 spot in this ranking update, finished tied for sixth and 10th, respectively, in the Division 1 field. No. 4 Kate Meyer of Middleton finished fifth in Division 1 and Welch, ranked No. 5, tied for third in Division 2 in the 36-hole event to cap the season.
However, beyond No. 6 Sami Krutz of Brookfield Central and No. 7 Grace Suter of Oconomowoc, many of the golfers in the Class of 2020 remain a mystery heading into the final summer before their senior year next fall. Only five other golfers competed in PGA section junior championships in Wisconsin or Minnesota this past summer and only nine competed in the girls-only tournament opportunities offered annually by the Sherri Steinhauer Invitational or the SentryWorld Classic.
Many college coaches will need to see a much broader body of work from the bulk of this class than what they do during the high school season, when courses are set up far easier as coaches take into account the playability of layouts for the No. 5 golfers as much or more than the No. 1s.
However, as Kauflin showed the last four years, there are ample opportunities on the junior golf calendar to that happen. Sure, it helps to have talent, but it is as important to have commitment.