Mike Breaker stood on the 18th green at University Ridge late Tuesday afternoon. And everywhere Arrowhead’s girls golf coach turned brought a smile.
When Breaker looked right, he saw several of his Warhawks celebrating the WIAA Division 1 state championship they had just captured. To Breaker’s left was Arrowhead standout sophomore Emily Lauterbach, who had just become the first individual state champion in school history.
Heck, even when Breaker stared straight ahead, he saw the state capitol and a picturesque view of Madison.
“This is a great place to be right now,” Breaker said.
During a memorable two days, Arrowhead dominated the state golf tournament unlike any Division 1 team in recent memory.
Arrowhead won the team title with a two-day total of 624, good for a 51-stroke victory over runner-up Middleton. The Warhawks set a new state record with an opening round 308, then followed that up with a rock solid 316 on Tuesday.
“Hats off to Arrowhead,” Middleton coach Becky Halverson said. “They played great.”
The Warhawks’ 624 was the second-lowest score in state history, behind only Madison Edgewood’s 617 in 2008. And Arrowhead’s margin of victory was the largest in Division 1 since the WIAA went to multiple divisions in 2003.
Over the last four years, the Warhawks have won two state championships and finished second twice. But this group also had a bond that most teams never enjoy.
“Our chemistry was just incredible,” Breaker said. “I have not had many teams that get along and enjoy each other the way these girls did. That was pretty awesome.”
Arrowhead’s opening round 308 was the third-lowest score in school history. Lauterbach carded a 2-under-par, 70, and sat in second place, two strokes behind Middleton’s Alexis Thomas.
Lauterbach overcame back-to-back bogeys to start her round by making five birdies and just one bogey the rest of the day.
“I expected us to do good, but maybe not this good,” Lauterbach said. “It’s nice to have a lead like this. We’ll just keep playing our game.”
Arrowhead also counted a 75 from senior Alexa Holland, an 81 from senior Mattie Kujawski and 82 from junior Sarah Ernst. And the Warhawks’ scintillating opening round gave them a 26-stroke lead over Middleton heading to the tournament’s final day.
“I’m just elated,” said Holland, who was making her fourth trip to state. “We’ll come out (Tuesday) and just do what we always do.”
Arrowhead did exactly that, and when the Warhawks refused to blink early on, it became apparent the team title would be headed back to Arrowhead.
The focus then shifted to the individual race, where Lauterbach and Thomas were in a neck-and-neck chase for the title.
Thomas shot a 1-over-par, 37, on the front nine Tuesday. Lauterbach, playing one group ahead of Thomas, carded a 35 and the two headed to the back nine deadlocked at 3-under-par.
Thomas began struggling with her putter, though, and after 13 holes, Lauterbach had grabbed a four-shot lead. But Lauterbach made a triple bogey at No. 14, allowing Thomas to pull within one shot.
“I thought I lost it right there,” Lauterbach said.
Far from it.
Lauterbach played the final four holes in 1-under par. Thomas, on the other hand, couldn’t recapture her Monday magic and shot 42 on the back nine.
Lauterbach’s two-day, 142, was the second-lowest Division 1 score in state history, behind only Milton’s Ashton Stair, who shot a 140 in 2010. And afterwards, Breaker was amazed at the resolve Lauterbach showed down the stretch.
“A lot of girls will make a triple bogey, or a double, and they’ll just keep going in the wrong direction,” Breaker said. “I told her, ‘You’ve played 32 holes so far and had one bad hole. That’s pretty darn good.’
“So she finished with 35 good holes out of 36. Anyone would take that.”
Lauterbach was certainly thrilled with her performance.
A year ago as a starry-eyed freshman, Lauterbach averaged 81.5. This season, she lowered that total to 74.07 during the season, then went even lower on the state’s biggest stage.
“I think I just kept improving and kept gaining confidence,” Lauterbach said. “And this was a great way to end the year.”
Lauterbach wasn’t the only Warhawk to exit the 2016 season on a high.
Kujawski shot a final round 76 and finished eighth overall at 157. Holland carded a 158 and tied for 11th, while Ernst (168, 27th) and junior Gianna Gastrow (175, 34th) had solid tournaments.
“I’m so excited for the team winning it,” said Holland, who was part of Arrowhead’s last four state teams. “It’s been so exciting seeing the Warhawks grow in my time here and just see the talent that’s come through here.”
The Warhawks run seems likely to continue next fall, as well.
Arrowhead loses two standouts in Holland and Kujawski. But the Warhakws will return the defending individual state champion and two other key cogs from this year’s title team.
Breaker, still taking in the view on the 18th green, contemplated that happy thought for a moment.
“I think we’ll have a chance to be pretty good again,” he said. “But they’ll have tough shoes to fill. This group here was pretty amazing.”
Which is something the whole state found out this week.