The battle for the distinction of WPGA Junior Girls Player of the Year came right down to the final points event of the 2018 season.
In topping Drake-bound senior Lexi Meade of Eau Claire Memorial at the WIAA Division 1 state girls golf tournament, Wauwatosa's Rachel Kauflin became the first junior to earn the award since Cottage Grove's Mikayla Hauck — now at NCAA Division I Eastern Kentucky — won the first of back-to-back honors in 2014. Kauflin finished with 1,350 points; Meade finished with 1,270.60.
Kauflin took a 25-point lead over Meade into the WIAA state tournament and a five-shot lead over Meade into the final round of her state debut. Paired together in the final round Tuesday, Kauflin shot a final-round 77 and finished third behind Bay Port sophomore Jo Baranczyk and Hartland Arrowhead senior Emily Lauterbach in Division 1 while Meade shot 81 and tied for 11th.
"Winning player of the year wasn't really on my radar at the beginning of the year, but I am extremely proud of the great golf I played all year and winning player of the year is very reflective of that," Kauflin told Wisconsin.Golf after the state tournament. "It was definitely something in the back of my mind the last few days, and it's just been really fun to compete with Lexi all summer as well as these past few days at state."
Kauflin tallied 887.50 of her 1,350 points in five events, earning 200 apiece for winning the Sherri Steinhauer Invitational and the WPGA Players Tour event at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia in Green Lake and for finishing fifth at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational. She also scored 187.50 points for her fourth-place finish at the WPGA Morgan Stanley Tour Championship and 100 points for a fourth-place finish at the WPGA Players Tour event at Blackwolf Run in Kohler.
But it took the 60 points she earned for her WIAA state finish to hold off Meade, who scored all but 95 of her 1,270.60 points in five events. She earned 350 for winning the WPGA Morgan Stanley Tour Championship, 250 for finishing fourth at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational, 225 for finishing second at the WPGA/WWSGA Junior Girls Match Play, 200 for finishing fifth at the WPGA Junior Championship and 150 for finishing second to Kauflin at the Sherri Steinhauer Invitational.
Hartland seventh-grader Jessica Guiser was third with 1,105. Grafton sophomore Elise Hoven (1,015) and Lauterbach (970) rounded out the top five.
Meanwhile, 11-year-old Payton Haugen of Brookfield won WPGA Futures Tour Player-of-the-Year honors. Haugen, whose sister Madison won the award in 2016 and 2017, won four events on the 14-and-under, nine-hole circuit at Nine Springs Golf Course in Fitchburg, Fairfield Hills Golf Course in Baraboo and Thornberry Creek at Oneida Golf Course near Green Bay.