AJ Gray is a man of few words. But that’s alright, his play speaks for itself.
Gray, a senior golfer at Milton High School, finished off another successful Badger South Conference campaign last week.
Following the Badger South Conference Meet on Tuesday, May 14, Gray earned a spot on the conference’s first team. It’s the fourth time he has made an all conference team and his third time being on the first team.
Gray shot an 83 at the Badger South meet to lead Milton to fourth place. The Red Hawks collected 352 strokes as a team. The fourth-place finish helped Milton maintain their spot in the conference standings (fourth).
Madison Edgewood won the conference meet with 318 strokes. The Crusaders finished first in the overall conference standings.
Despite only finishing a spot lower in conference from last year, the Red Hawks rest of the season figures to play out differently than last season.
Milton was three strokes short of a state-berth as a team last year, but with the Red Hawks only returning one starter from last season (Gray), expectations logically go down a bit.
It’s been a change of pace for Gray this season, who said this year was the first time he took a true leadership role.
“It’s been fun,” Gray said. “There are some people who weren’t that good in the beginning of the season and throughout the year have gotten a lot better.”
“He definitely opened up a little more this year,” Wieland said. “You know what you’re going to get with him. He’s quiet, he’s reserved, he’s going to do what he’s told to do. He’s just going to be that way. He’s just a quiet guy, not very vocal. As far as a leader, he did his role for our team.”
At the Badger South Conference meet, sophomore Brayden Kline scored the second best round for the Red Hawks with an 86.
Freshman Zach Bothun carded an 88 at the meet.
Tanner Brown and Cole Zagelow fired a 95 and 103, respectively.
Although it would be a tall task for Milton to qualify for the state meet his season, Gray still has an opportunity to qualify as an individual.
“It would mean a lot,” Gray said “I’ve wanted to go since my freshman year. I’ve come so close and haven’t made it. I’ve worked a lot over the winter and this season.”
The closest Gray has ever been to reaching the state tournament was his first year with the Red Hawks.
“Freshman year, last hole, all I had to do was get at least I think a par or a bogey,” Gray said. “I missed that year individually by one stroke.”
“It was tough, sophomore year was two or three strokes and junior, we almost went as a team,” he added.
Wieland said the biggest thing for Gray will be his consistency.
“It would be gratifying for AJ, sometimes he just wants it too bad and it’s hard to tell but you know because he’s so quiet,” Wieland said.
“I want to go to state, If I don’t I would be pretty upset,” Gray said.
As far as personalities go, Gray knows his and uses it to his advantage while competing.
“I am pretty quiet,” Gray said. “If I know people I’m not as quiet, but usually I’m pretty quiet.”
Gray said his reserved nature does help a bit in staying composed on the course.
“Yeah, I would say I’m more composed. It’s better to just stay in the moment,” he said.
Despite his cool demeanor, Gray said he does remember a few times he’s shown some emotion on the golf course.
“Last year, it was either regional or sectionals, we were right there during the last couple holes and I birdied the last hole and I was pretty fired up about that,” he said.
Another moment that Gray recalls straying a bit from his even keeled-nature is when he posted his career-low 68 at Oak Ridge in Milton this season.
“That was awesome, it was a fun moment,” he said.
“He never pouts and sulk, sometimes he isn’t as positive maybe as he can be. When he shot a 68 here he was walking fast and positive,” Wieland said.
State appearance or not, Gray will continue his golf career at Madison Area Technical College,
“AJ has been a really good player,” Wieland said. “It’s a cliche but his best golf is going to be in front of him.”
Gray and the rest of the Red Hawks competed in a WIAA regional on Tuesday, May 21, at Hawk’s View Golf Club, but results were not available by publication. Sectionals will be a week later on Tuesday, May 28.