It's hard to imagine a more appropriate golfer to lead the girls Class of 2018 into the college ranks than Abby Cavaiani because the former Kettle Moraine standout from Wales is one of many whose stars are continuing to rise.
Cavaiani left for Missouri State this fall with a junior golf resume that spanned just four years and 33 WPGA Junior points events. That's not a deep record by today's standards, but her showing in those events was more than enough to gain the attention of Bears coach Kevin Kane, who recruited her to Springfield, Missouri, and give the reigning Missouri Valley Conference champions a low-mileage golfer whose best days on the golf course are clearly in front of her.
Then again, the same could be said for the bulk of a class that barely had time to change out of their caps and gowns last spring before making an impact at the collegiate level. Nineteen of the top 20 golfers in Wisconsin.Golf's updated rankings for the Class of 2018 were on college rosters this fall and combined to play 181 competitive rounds led by Cavaiani, who averaged 75.7 in 15 rounds at Missouri State (second on the team behind senior Rachel Johnson) and retained the No. 1 spot in our final ranking of this class.
Wisconsin's impact was felt in collegiate programs from Spartanburg, South Carolina, to Brookings, South Dakota, and many campuses in between.
Milton grad Mia Seeman, the 2017 WIAA Division 1 state champion, finished the fall as the No. 2 golfer at South Dakota State. That's also the ranking she maintained in the Wisconsin.Golf rankings on the strength of a runner-up finish at the WPGA Junior Championship (which Cavaiani won) and a sixth-place showing at the Wisconsin Women's State Open (Cavaiani had to withdraw from the event when her girls soccer team at Kettle Moraine reached the WIAA Division 1 state soccer tournament).
Mequon's Speedy Kent averaged 77.25 in four rounds this fall at Wofford University in South Carolina. Menomonee Falls' Lorenza Martinez helped Kenosha native Carly Werwie enjoy a smooth transition to NCAA Division I coach at Loyola where the former Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels golfer averaged 82.4 in 11 rounds for the Ramblers.
The big winners in mining the talent in this class, though, were UW-Green Bay, the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
No. 5 Isabelle Maleki of Mequon Homestead and No. 6 Courtney Matschke of Franklin helped UWGB withstand an ankle injury and continue to make gains under coach Lee Reinke, who is beginning his third full season coaching the Phoenix women. Maleki averaged 81.3 and Matschke 83.3, each playing 14 rounds as first-semester freshmen.
No. 8 Erika Priebe of Appleton (seventh) and No. 11 Markie Ash of Waupaca (16th) both finished in the top 20 for UW-Oshkosh and UW-Stout, respectively. Stout also received a pleasant surprise in No. 15 Bailee Bussan of Cuba City, who averaged 86.4 in 10 rounds all as an individual competitor and provided depth on the Blue Devils' roster.
In the MIAC, Wisconsin's exports across the Mississippi River had a bit tougher of a time, but contributed nonetheless. No. 9 Erin Ericson of Onalaska (Gustavus Adolphus) tied for 21st, No. 13 Courtney Shorter of Fitchburg (St. Thomas) tied for 37th and No. 22 Sydney Steinmetz of Oshkosh (St. Thomas) finished 40th.
As deep as No. 39 Billie Jo Parker of Whitewater, who played six rounds as an individual competitor for UW-Whitewater, the Class of 2018 makes its mark this fall in the collegiate ranks, logging 278 competitive rounds among 31 golfers dotting the collegiate landscape.
For most of them, including Cavaiani, the best is likely to come.