MADISON — It hurt Glenna Sanderson to be out of the lineup two weeks ago at the start of the WIAA tournament. And it hurt the Middleton junior to be in the lineup Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge Golf Course, hiking 18 holes both days on two sore feet at the WIAA state girls golf tournament.
But it never hurt so good as it did Tuesday when Sanderson and her Cardinals teammates celebrated something so special and rewarding that any pain she had been feeling was lost in the glow of that gold trophy they were holding.
Sanderson shot 5-over-par 77 and joined teammates Kate Meier (78) and Ellie Fisch (79) in breaking 80 as Middleton pulled away for its third state title. But it was her even-par 36 on the front nine that helped the Cardinals put some distance between them and their pursuers, turning a one-stroke edge over Hartland Arrowhead into a 12-shot lead over Brookfield Central by the turn.
In the end, Middleton's closing 321 gave it a 36-hole total of 651 and a 13-shot victory over Brookfield Central (327), which edged out defending state champion Kettle Moraine (332) by one shot for the silver trophy. Meier, a Loyola (Ill.) recruit, finished seventh and Sanderson ninth for the Cardinals, whose title was their third but the first by a margin greater than one shot.
"It was really fun," Sanderson said after shooting her third straight sub-80 score since returning for the sectional after a two-week break with chronic pain in both feet. "I went into the back side not getting my hopes up after shooting even on the front. Just being here for the team doing my best."
Her presence down the stretch proved to be the difference for Middleton.
With Meier leading the way, Sanderson couldn't have been more consistent — shooting 79 at the sectional, another 79 in Monday's first round and the 77 to close the season Tuesday — despite considerable discomfort in her feet. It has been an ongoing condition and she made the decision to sit out the Big Eight Conference Tournament and WIAA regional in hopes the rest would help her feet withstand a postseason journey that was anything but a leisurely walk.
"Freshman year, I was diagnosed with bursitis, different tendonitis and a bunch of different conditions just trying to treat my pain," said Sanderson, one of four returnees from the Cardinals' 2018 state runner-up squad. "We couldn't quite figure it out and it wasn't too bad last year. Coming back this year, it was really a struggle. I've gotten different medication to try to help the pain. It was pretty hard not playing; I wanted to be here playing. So I decided it was worth taking that little break when conference and regionals came around because I wanted to be rested for the rest of the season.
"It is in a lot of pain; my feet hurt. But it's something I can deal with."
Middleton dealt with her absence well, winning the Big Eight title by 44 shots over Madison Memorial and the Baraboo regional by 22 shots over Waunakee. The Cardinals pushed that advantage to 33 shots over Waunakee in winning the DeForest sectional with Sanderson in the lineup and — if 11 strokes per day over the competition was indeed what she brought to the table — it made all the difference for Middleton, given its margin over Brookfield Central.
"Having her (back) was an extra bonus," Meier said. "She really is the glue to our team and she brings us all together. Her coming back for postseason meant a lot."
Sanderson's wasn't the only comeback story of note Tuesday.
For the second year in a row, Bay Port's Jo Baranczyk rallied over the final nine holes to win a state championship. This time, Baranczyk shot a 1-under 71 after doing the heavy lifting in the middle of her round, playing a nine-hole stretch starting at No. 8 in 2-under despite a double-bogey 6 at No. 10, and inched ahead of Brookfield Central's Sarah Balding after the Lancers sophomore hit her tee shot in the pond on the par-3 17th hole en route to a double-bogey and a closing 78.
"In some ways, it means more than last year," said Baranczyk, who started the summer strong with victories at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational and Wisconsin PGA Junior Championship only to endure humbling setbacks as the National PGA Junior Championship and U.S. Girls' Junior Championship that produced a profound lack of confidence that carried into the high school season. "It was a really difficult year. Just to come back like that means a lot.
"Overall, it really was a disappointing (season). But to end with this makes it all better."