Returning stater

Senior Luke Humphrey was the only varsity starter returning to the Waunakee golf team this spring.

The Waunakee boys golf team had a lot of unknowns coming into the 2020 season after graduating four starters, but the questions will remain unanswered after COVID-19 wiped out the season.

“It’s been disappointing for everyone associated with our sport. The players, coaches and parents all feel bad that we aren’t able to have a season,” Warrior coach Betsy Zadra said. “It’s been especially tough on our seniors who have been working hard since last year in anticipation of their senior year. I think our players have handled it really well and see the big picture.”

The 2020 golf season was set to begin April 6, but the WIAA called off all spring sports in March.

“With our season starting later this year, we had time to prepare everyone for the possibility of no season,” Zadra said. “We held out hope that things would improve but knew there was a good chance that the WIAA would cancel all spring sports. With Governor Evers opening golf courses on April 24, our guys can at least get out and golf and I think they have found solace in that.”

Despite losing the four starters, Zadra was excited about the 2020 season.

“I was so looking forward to this season,” Zadra said. “Last year, my assistant coach Jackson Gabriel and myself, were talking about this year’s team. We were losing four starters to graduation and were really excited about the one returning starter and JV players who were going to compete for those varsity spots. Even though we would have four new starters on varsity, we felt this could be a team that could have much success this year.

“We probably would be coming in under the radar in terms of media expectations with so many new starters, but these players had great success at the JV level,” she added. “Many of them would be starters on other high school teams but at Waunakee, they were competing against three and four-year starters. They waited patiently for their opportunity and 2020 was going to be their year.”

Last season, the Warriors claimed their second straight Badger North Conference title. At the conference tournament, Waunakee came away with a score of 307 to finish 12 strokes ahead of Mount Horeb.

Waunakee claimed the overall Badger North crown with 46.5 points, followed by Mount Horeb (43.5), Reedsburg (34.5), DeForest (21.5), Portage (20.5), Baraboo (20), Beaver Dam (17.5) and Sauk Prairie (12).

“I thought our team had a great season last year,” Zadra said. “Our expectations with a senior-laden group were to get to state, but we fell a couple strokes short at our sectional. Our goal at Waunakee is to always win the Badger North Conference Championship and we defended our title in 2019. We won several invitationals and were fortunate to play in invitationals at Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run and Erin Hills.”

The Warriors went on to place third at the WIAA regional and sectional levels last season.

The lost season is especially tough for Waunakee’s senior group of Luke Humphrey, Mason Miller, Trent Jarvi, Cade Nelson, Kaden Esser, Hunter Beck, Ryan Peters, Griffin Wubbolding, Matt Wooten and Jake Templin.

“What a senior class,” Zadra said. “Most of these seniors have been in the program all four years. They are team players, exceptional student-athletes and have represented the Waunakee Golf Team, their high school and community the right way. Respectful, dedicated, perseverance and integrity are words that would describe this senior class. I feel bad we didn’t get to see these seniors play this spring, but I have great memories of this group and know they would’ve had a successful season. They will all do well in the next chapter of their life.”

Zadra is not sure how the lost season will mean for her underclassmen.

“It definitely has an effect but since golf is more of an individual sport, the guys can still use this time to work on their games,” Zadra said. “It’s important for them to identify their weaknesses and turn them into strengths. The underclassmen who have been in the program have drills we have given them over the years that they can use. The freshmen and players new to the program are the ones it has really affected. We give them drills and information virtually but it’s not the same as in-person coaching. There are some things we can’t coach virtually.”

The Warriors may still have a chance to work out together. The WIAA is allowing for a 30-day contact period for spring sports teams this summer.

“The Badger Conference hasn’t decided yet if they will allow the 30-day contact period,” Zadra said. “However, we are still allowed some contact days until July 31. If the Governor’s Safer at Home order is lifted and we can gather as a group or even in small groups, we will use these days to have optional practices. This will give us a chance to work with the new players and introduce the things we missed out on this spring. With the returning players, we’ll be there to help them assess their game and improve any weaknesses in their game. Plus, it will just be good for the golf team to get together again and get to know the new players.”

Zadra is already excited about next spring.

“I can’t wait,” Zadra said. “There’s definitely been a void for the coaches not being with the guys this spring. We will have a lot of returning players next year and the future should be bright for Waunakee golf.”

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