One thing has been clear about AJ Gray’s play at the sectional and the state tournament, he knows how to battle.
The senior qualified for the state meet for the first time his career in dramatic fashion at the Mukwonago Sectional held on Tuesday, May 28, at Edgewood Golf Course in Big Bend.
Gray won a playoff against Sun Prairie’s Ethan Carrick to advance to state.
Gray played in the first round of the WIAA Division 1 State Boys Golf Tournament at University Ridge in Verona on Monday, June 3.
After a round of play, Gray was tied for 32nd overall with a 78 in the 104-player leaderboard.
Gray started off the sectional with a par on the first hole, but followed it up triple bogey on the second hole.
“He battled back,” Milton head coach Kirk Wieland said. “He did what he had to do. He didn’t shoot himself out of it.”
Gray carded a 35 on the back nine to go into a playoff with Carrick and Parker’s Zack Milner.
Gray and Carrick both had good drives, but Milner’s drive went into the woods, effectively taking him out of the playoff.
All even on strokes, Gray had about a 16-foot putt, while Carrick’s was about 20 feet. Carrick rolled the ball past the hole about two feet.
With a putt to go to state, Gray left his ball just short of the pin.
Although it looked like a second playoff would be needed, Carrick missed his next put, while Gray sunk it down the hole to punch his way to to state.
“Although he really doesn’t show it, he was so dog-gone happy inside,” Wieland said.
Milton finished seventh overall at the sectional.
Sophomore Brayden Kline carded 85, freshman Zack Bothun shot a 86, Cole Zagelow fired a 92 and freshman Tanner Brown ended with a 93
While Gray had a shaky start at the sectional, state was not the same.
After nine holes, Gray sat just one-stroke over par, positioning himself for a possible top-10 finish.
The back nine was bit of a different story.
On the 10th hole, he holed a triple bogey.
“I think he just felt, gosh darn it, I just wasted my first nine holes,” Wieland said.
A hole later on the 11th, Gray three-putted for a double bogey.
“We had a little talk,” Wieland said. “I said we have two options, ‘one we can feel sorry for ourselves and you can keep on playing like this and turn a really good round into a not great experience, or we can toughen up and you can finish strong.’”
Gray did finish strong. He recorded seven straight pars to end the first round.
“He played really good,” Wieland said. “His score didn’t tell the whole story.”
Gray’s second-round results will be in next week’s edition of the Milton Courier as well at online at miltoncourieronline.com.