MADISON - From as far back as 1959, only eight teams from Lancaster High School have ever qualified to compete in the Wisconsin State Boys Golf Championship at the end of the year.
And it was this year’s team, with two seniors, one junior and two sophomores, that made school history by bringing home the Division 3 state runner-up trophy.
Not only was their second-place state finish the best in school history, but this year’s team score of 649 was also the best by any Lancaster team at state.
Granted, up until 1989, the state golf meet consisted of just one class regardless of school size. And from 1989 to 2005, Lancaster competed in the much tougher division 2.
But ever since the Flying Arrows fell to division 3 in 2011, they have gone to the state championship every year, finishing sixth in 2011, fourth in 2012 and now second in 2013.
“I am very proud of what these boys did this year,” said head coach Brad Sturmer. “They are all talented players, but they all worked hard to become better mental golfers. That’s why they were able to take the next step.”
“They scored 50 strokes lower than last year at the same course and similar conditions,” Sturmer added. “If they had posted this score last year, they would have run away with the title.”
He’s right. This year’s score of 649 was actually 10 strokes better than Cuba City last year, who won the D3 state title with a 659.
This year though, Osseo-Fairchild was just too tough, winning their program’s ninth state title with a team score of 639.
Following the first day of competition at University Ridge, some people made the mistake of thinking it was a two-team race for the D3 state title between Osseo-Fairchild and Pardeeville.
Osseo-Fairchild did hold the top spot with an impressive first-day score of 316, while Pardeeville was just six strokes behind with a 322.
In third place were the Flying Arrows, who shot a first-day score of 326, and sat 10 strokes behind the leaders, and four behind Pardeeville.
Leading Lancaster on the first day was junior Zach Hentrich, who shot a one-over-par round of 37 on the front, then a three-over-par round of 39 on the back, finishing with a 76.
Of the 52 golfers in the division 3 field, Hentrich was sitting in seventh place after day one.
Senior John VanDeHey finished the first day with a nine-over-par 81, taking a 40 on the front and a 41 on the back, while sophomore Nathan Farrey was close behind at 82, taking a 42 on the front and a 40 on the back.
Fellow sophomore Andrew Gates finished day one with an 87, after taking a 47 on the front and a 40 on the back, while senior Connor Flynn finished with a 49 on the front, and a 49 on the back, for an 18-hole score of 98.
If the Arrows were to catch up to Osseo-Fairchild on Tuesday, they would have to make up 10 strokes on the second day, a feat they nearly pulled off.
Starting the second day on the back nine, Lancaster made up six strokes on Osseo-Fairchild and came in with scores of 38 (Hentrich), 39 (Gates), 42 (VanDeHey), and 43 (Farrey) for a 162, while Pardeeville shot a 168 on the back.
Lancaster carried their momentum into the front nine, where at one point they were only three strokes behind the leaders, and well ahead of the third-place team.
Then, as quickly as the Arrows had made a move for the top spot, they suddenly found themselves fighting to hang onto second place as the first few golfers finished up their rounds.
With the first three golfers in the clubhouse, every stroke on the ninth hole held a significant importance, as Lancaster was no longer in contention for first place, but fighting for second.
With a par by Gates on the eighth and ninth holes, and a birdie and par by his Pardeeville opponent, the Arrows and Bulldogs were even, when Hentrich approached the eighth tee.
Pardeeville took a one-stroke lead with one hole to play when Hentrich took a bogey on eight, and his Pardeeville opponent made par.
On the ninth, Pardeeville’s Nick Satina hit his tee shot into a bunker, then failed to get out of the sand on his second shot. His fourth shot was out of a greenside bunker, and after a two-putt finished with a bogey on the par-5 ninth.
Hentrich was on the green in three, and staring at a five-foot birdie putt, which he calmly knocked in for what everyone thought was a tie for second place.
As it turned out, after all the scores were checked, the Arrows edged out the Bulldogs for second place by one stroke.
“I tell you what, that was as exciting as golf gets,” said coach Sturmer. “Zach didn’t know it of course, but we as a team and the fans that were there knew that putt could be for the state runner-up trophy.”
“We were all watching, and when he rolled that putt into the center of the cup, we were all very excited,” Sturmer added.
Hentrich finished the front nine with a 38, for a second-day total of 76 and a two-day total of 152. He tied for seventh place among 52 division 3 golfers.
“Zach is a great one man,” said coach Sturmer. “Coming in with a pair of 76’s was huge for the team.”
Gates, who made the biggest jump in the standings, finished with a 78 on day two, leaving him with a two-day score of 165. He tied for 17th place along with Cuba City senior Alex Stewart, after sitting in 28th after day one.
“Andrew’s two days were a perfect example of how you play the game mentally,” Sturmer said. “He wasn’t playing bad the first day, he just wasn’t catching any breaks, and wasn’t scoring well. He never lost his composure either day, and posted a huge 78 for us on the second day.”
VanDeHey shot a 43 on the front nine and had an 18-hole score of 85 on the second day. His two-day total of 166 tied him for 18th place along with Farrey, who shot an 84 on the second day to go along with his 82 on the first.
“John was so consistent all year. He never gets flustered and that’s why he is so consistent,” Sturmer said.
“Nathan has got a ton of talent and probably took the biggest step mentally on the team this year,” said Sturmer. “He posted two good scores at the four position, and that’s what makes our team so good. We are solid from one through five.”
Rounding out the Lancaster five was Flynn, who followed up a 98 on day one with a 94 on the second day, giving him a 192 and 47th place.
“Connor is a great five man. Some teams in division 3 can’t count on their five man to score and that puts pressure on the other four,” Sturmer said. “We never had that issue this year because we know our five man is a good enough golfer and can post good scores. That helped us out more than a person realizes.”
For VanDeHey and Flynn, they were able to cap off a heck of a senior year that included a state runner-up title in football, a state team championship in wrestling, and now a state runner-up team title in golf.
While Lancaster has had a number of great golfers throughout the years, the 2013 team now holds a special spot in the record book as arguably the best team in school history.
“What a great year it was,” said Sturmer. “Our number one goal was to win conference, and we did that by beating out a very tough River Valley squad. Our next goal was to get to team state and then play well enough to win it. I surely feel we did that also.”
“We posted two good 18-hole scores, and you can’t ask for much more than that,” Sturmer added. “When it was all said and done, that was good enough to be the second best division 3 team in the state, and that’s a great accomplishment.”
WIAA State Tournament
(from Mondany and Tuesday, June 3-4, at the University Ridge Golf Course, par 72)
D3 Team scores - 1. Osseo-Fairchild 316-323=639; 2. Lancaster 326-323-649; 3. Pardeeville 322-328=650; 4. St. Mary’s Springs 335-319=654; 5. Kohler 336-325=661; 6. Glenwood City 357-345=702; 7. Weyauwega-Fremont 353-350=703; 8. Iola-Scandinavia 377-347=724.
D3 Medalist - Jake Rogness (Eleva-Strum) 73-73=146.
Lancaster - 7. (tie) Zach Hentrich 76-76=152; 17. (tie) Andrew Gates 87-78=165; 18. (tie) John VanDeHey 91-85=166, Nathan Farrey 82-84=166; 47. Connor Flynn 98-94=192.
Southwestern - 5. Josh Smith 73-76=149.
Cuba City - 17. (tie) Alex Stewart 79-86=165.
Iowa-Grant - 11. Derek Peat 79-78=157.