Blackhawk Country Club in Madison always seems to bring out the best in Rachel Kauflin, no matter how she has been playing before she gets there.
Monday was no exception.
The Central Michigan recruit from Wauwatosa made three straight birdies for the first time in her career and, despite back-to-back bogeys to close, shot an even-par 72 to take a one-stroke lead over Caylie Kotlowski, a rising senior at Stoughton High School, after one round of the Wisconsin Women's State Amateur Championship. Oregon's Taylor McCorkle, a senior-to-be at North Dakota State, shot 74 on her home course and joined Weber State's Taitum Beck of Waterford and Pewaukee veteran Maggie Lee in a tie for third place.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in place in Dane County requiring single-rider carts, the traditional 36-hole opener for golfers in the championship flight was reduced to 18 holes, turning the competition into a 36-hole event for golfers in all four flights. The final round will begin at 7:45 a.m. with the leaders in the championship flight scheduled to tee off just before 3 p.m.
Kauflin sitting atop a leaderboard at Blackhawk CC is nothing new. She is the two-time defending champion of the Sherri Steinhauer Invitational, a girls-only Wisconsin PGA Junior event named for the former LPGA Tour star in which the opening round is played at Blackhawk CC and the final round at Pleasant View Golf Course in Middleton.
"I haven't been playing my best throughout the beginning of the summer," Kauflin said in a Zoom interview with Wisconsin.Golf, mindful that her 2020 resume hasn't been up to expectations for the two-time reigning WPGA Junior Player of the Year outside of her WPGA Junior Tour victory last week on the Irish Course at Whistling Straits. "But I knew from past experience that Blackhawk was a course that suited my game very well. It's a course that is very tight and, because of that, there are a lot of holes where the college players who hit it really far, that length (advantage) is kind of eliminated."
Indeed, the key to scoring at Blackhawk CC is keeping it between the tree-lined fairways and resisting the temptation to pull out the driver on the four short par-4s that measure less than 300 yards, where the risk to try to drive it near the green is mitigated by fast, firm fairways that bring the trees into play.
Kauflin took those cautions to heart to make her move after coming to the par-4 eighth hole at even-par following a birdie at No. 2 and a bogey at No. 6. She had the same club on her approach shots at Nos. 8 and 9, leading to the first of her three straight birdies that got her to 3-under. A double-bogey 7 at No. 12 preceded her fifth birdie of the day at No. 14 before those consecutive bogeys to end her round brought her back to the field.
"You talk about the run of birdies I got on, I got into a groove where on Nos. 8 and 9 I think I had 7-irons into both of them," Kauflin said. "I hit really good shots on both of them and hit nice putts that found their way into the hole. It was just really fun to see some of the work I've been doing ... pay off."
Likewise, Kotlowski went on a run similar to Kauflin in the middle of her round.
After making the turn in 4-over 40, Kotlowski bogeyed No. 10 to drop to 5-over. She said she started paying closer attention to the greens book she purchased in the pro shop and suddenly caught fire with the putter.
Kotlowski, who seldom sees a hole that doesn't fit her driver, pulled her tee shot on the 265-yard 11th hole into the trees, punched onto the right side of the green and made a 30-foot putt for the first of three consecutive birdies and four over her next five holes. On the par-5 12th, she hit an 8-iron onto the front edge of a green and then knocked in a 40-footer up the hill for birdie.
"I started reading the greens better," Kotlowski said. "I just felt good with the putter. On the front nine, my putting kept me in the game. I had a fair number of one-putts on the front nine and they started dropping (for birdie) on the back."
Meanwhile, others who threatened the top of the leaderboard at various points during the Monday's opening dropped back.
McCorkle, who birdied No. 1 and bogeyed No. 8 to turn in even-par 36, birdied No. 11 to get to 1-under before a triple-bogey 8 on No. 12 knocked her back. A triple-bogey 7 at No. 6 slowed Beck's climb up the leaderboard after a birdie at No. 3 and four pars had her at 1-under, but she rallied with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 and played her final eight holes in 2-under.
With 15 golfers within five shots of her, Kauflin knows there will be a lot of threats to her lead over the final 18 holes.
"It's a very challenging venue; it's a very fitting place to have this tournament," Kauflin said. "It's very tight in spots. The greens are very tricky at times. So it does present a very firm challenge. But, as we saw (Monday), if you're hitting the ball well, it also gives you the opportunity to go low at times. I think, for me, it'll just be important for me to bear down and focus on continuing to keep the ball in play and try to avoid the big numbers."
|1||Rachel Kauflin Wauwatosa, WI||E||F||E||72||72|
|2||Caylie Kotlowski Stoughton, WI||+1||F||+1||73||73|
|T3||Taylor McCorkle Oregon, WI||+2||F||+2||74||74|
|T3||Taitum Beck Waterford, WI||+2||F||+2||74||74|
|T3||Maggie Leef Pewaukee, WI||+2||F||+2||74||74|
|T6||Amy Kucera Fontana, WI||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T6||Grace Suter Oconomowoc, WI||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T6||Ashli Stolen Stoughton, WI||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T6||Kate Meier Middleton, WI||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T6||Sydney Rae Brandt Brookfield, WI||+3||F||+3||75||75|
|T11||Mallory Swartz Franklin, WI||+4||F||+4||76||76|
|T11||Alexis Thomas Middleton, WI||+4||F||+4||76||76|
|T11||Elise Hoven Grafton, WI||+4||F||+4||76||76|
|T11||Skye Skenandore De Pere, WI||+4||F||+4||76||76|
|T15||Courtney Matschke Franklin, WI||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|T15||Ellie Frisch Middleton, WI||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|T17||Payton Hodson Middleton, WI||+6||F||+6||78||78|
|T17||Ava Salay River Falls, WI||+6||F||+6||78||78|
|T19||Gabby Tremblay Hayward, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T19||Ashley Kulka Beaver Dam, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T19||Jessie Gulden Middleton, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T19||Bobbi Stricker Madison, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T19||Lorenza Martinez Menomonee Falls, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T19||Myranda Kotlowski Stoughton, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|25||Jo Baranczyk Green Bay, WI||+8||F||+8||80||80|
|T26||Sadie Kelley Green Bay, WI||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|T26||Lauren Peterson Hartland, WI||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|T26||Julie Schroeder Oregon, WI||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|T29||Isabelle Maleki Mequon, WI||+10||F||+10||82||82|
|T29||Jessica Rudnicki Sun Prairie, WI||+10||F||+10||82||82|
|T29||Grace Welch Madison, WI||+10||F||+10||82||82|
|T32||Isabella Dory Menomonee Falls, WI||+11||F||+11||83||83|
|T32||Glenna Sanderson Middleton, WI||+11||F||+11||83||83|
|T32||Syd Wells Menominee, MI||+11||F||+11||83||83|
|T32||Sydney Steinmetz Oshkosh, WI||+11||F||+11||83||83|
|36||Amanda Karvala New Berlin, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|37||Sami Forster Wauwatosa, WI||+14||F||+14||86||86|
|T38||Madeline Fiebig Waukesha, WI||+15||F||+15||87||87|
|T38||Jolie Guyette De Pere, WI||+15||F||+15||87||87|
|T38||Alyssa Schmidt Oregon, WI||+15||F||+15||87||87|
|41||Courtney Shorter Fitchburg, WI||+17||F||+17||89||89|
|42||Kirsten Leonardi Sussex, WI||+18||F||+18||90||90|
|43||Treva Dodd Brookfield, WI||+22||F||+22||94||94|
|44||Kimberly Dodd Brookfield, WI||+23||F||+23||95||95|
|45||Presley Cornelius Green Bay, WI||+27||F||+27||99||99|
|1||Pat Roisum Deerfield, WI||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|2||Andrea Schleeper Fitchburg, WI||+6||F||+6||78||78|
|T3||Katelyn Baribeau Cameron, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T3||McKenna Nelson Beaver Dam, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|5||Sophia Dooman Janesville, WI||+8||F||+8||80||80|
|T6||Madison Bowers Mineral Point, WI||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|T6||Payton Dube Hancock, MI||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|T8||Amy Gehrke Muskego, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|T8||Jill Trider Green Bay, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|T8||Maggie Warrner Lakewood, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|11||Katie Falk Milwaukee, WI||+13||F||+13||85||85|
|12||Carrie Sperling Madison, WI||+14||F||+14||86||86|
|T13||Karen Schmid Waukesha, WI||+17||F||+17||89||89|
|T13||Haley Myers Somerset, WI||+17||F||+17||89||89|
|15||Ashley Krieski Reedsburg, WI||+24||F||+24||96||96|
|1||Lillian Knetter Madison, WI||+5||F||+5||77||77|
|2||Peg Carlson Madison, WI||+7||F||+7||79||79|
|T3||Katie Culver Green Lake, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|T3||Ann Bonner Platteville, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|T3||Deb Toll Appleton, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|T3||Darcy Hinz Brookfield, WI||+12||F||+12||84||84|
|7||Sydney Grimm Waunakee, WI||+14||F||+14||86||86|
|T8||Anna Krieski Reedsburg, WI||+17||F||+17||89||89|
|T8||Bridget McCarthy Verona, WI||+17||F||+17||89||89|
|10||Vivian Cressman Middleton, WI||+18||F||+18||90||90|
|11||Sandy Nass Elkhorn, WI||+19||F||+19||91||91|
|12||Eleanor Potter Mequon, WI||+29||F||+29||101||101|
|1||Susan Crowson Madison, WI||+9||F||+9||81||81|
|2||Rita Cooney Colgate, WI||+11||F||+11||83||83|
|3||Bela Dodd Brookfield, WI||+13||F||+13||85||85|
|4||Grace Warrner Lakewood, WI||+15||F||+15||87||87|
|5||Susan Schellinger Milwaukee, WI||+18||F||+18||90||90|
|T6||Jill Doucette Cottage Grove, WI||+20||F||+20||92||92|
|T6||MaryBeth Buechel Wauwatosa, WI||+20||F||+20||92||92|
|T6||Jeanne Whitish Waunakee, WI||+20||F||+20||92||92|
|9||Dawn Thiel Appleton, WI||+22||F||+22||94||94|
|10||Carla Hellerman Oconomowoc, WI||+25||F||+25||97||97|
|11||Pat Kraft Hartland, WI||+28||F||+28||100||100|
|12||Mary Beth Specht Prairie Du Chien, WI||+36||F||+36||108||108|
|1||Paula Garcia Oconomowoc, WI||+22||F||+22||94||94|
|T2||Rosalind Gusinow Madison, WI||+25||F||+25||97||97|
|T2||Kathy Algiers Appleton, WI||+25||F||+25||97||97|
|4||Wendy Proctor Brookfield, WI||+26||F||+26||98||98|
|T5||Mary Griebl Hartford, WI||+31||F||+31||103||103|
|T5||Meng Xie Clayton Oregon, WI||+31||F||+31||103||103|
|T7||Connie Hillmann Germantown, WI||+32||F||+32||104||104|
|T7||Jane Kohl Waukesha, WI||+32||F||+32||104||104|
|9||Gretchen Styles Wauwatosa, WI||+33||F||+33||105||105|
|10||Patti Ohme Appleton, WI||+38||F||+38||110||110|
|11||Lisa Peterson Prairie du Chien, WI||+40||F||+40||112||112|
|12||Micki Hill Madison, WI||+43||F||+43||115||115|