Hortonville’s Hodson advances in golf tournament
By Scott Bellile
The New London golf team advanced to sectionals after triumphing with a first-place blowout at the regional tournament held at Shamrock Heights Golf Course Wednesday, May 27.
The victory landed the team its first trip to sectionals as a team since 1993, according to New London coach Andy Fuhs. The Division 1 sectional, which is the last tournament before state, took place after this newspaper went to print at Brown County Golf Course in Oneida on Tuesday, June 2.
Of eight teams, New London dominated with a team score of 307 for 18 holes, a 26-stroke lead over second-place Appleton East. Appleton East’s score of 333 was closely followed by Appleton West’s 337, and fourth-place Shawano was the last team to qualify for sectionals with a 347.
Bulldog golfer Landon Elsner individually shot the lowest score of all 40 participants, one stroke over par with a 71. Teammate Mitch Dey placed third overall with a 77, Sam Porath tied for fourth with a 79, Matt Fletcher tied for sixth with an 80 and Dillon Kluge tied for 20th with an 89.
Fifth-place Hortonville missed the cut-off for sectionals by eight strokes but managed to advance junior Matt Hodson individually.
Hodson and Ben Van Handel had tied for the third and final slot to send individual golfers to sectionals, both taking 15th overall with an 87.
“In a ‘sudden death’ playoff Matt made his par on the first hole to secure his spot at the next level,” Hortonville coach Dave Moe said. “The Sectional Tournament provides a new set of challenges that Matt knows will require his best effort. Brown County golf course is a demanding track that will test everyone.”
Aaron Voss tied for 20th shooting an 89, Casey Moen tied for 28th with a 92 and Bennett Lippert tied for 32nd with a 97.
Hortonville shot a 355, outplaying Appleton North (361), Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln (368) and Menasha (369).
“Mother Nature tried to throw a curve or two our way but the short sprinkle didn’t dampen the course or the spirit of competition,” Moe said.
Weak start, grand finish
All five New London golfers said the rainy start was rough but their games improved as they progressed.
“Winning regionals was something we had in mind but actually doing it was amazing,” Porath said.
“We knew we had it in us all year to shoot something low but we never thought it would be that low,” Dey said.
Fuhs said his players would work on managing their game mentally before sectionals. When Bulldog golfers hit a bad shot, he said they get stressed about it and overcompensate for the next hit.
Each player said he has a strength to contribute to the team at sectionals. Porath noted that as the only senior he’d give the younger players guidance. Elsner fixed his swing this year with the help of his brother, two-time state qualifier Austin Elsner. Kluge believes he too has a strong swing. Dey credited his strong iron play. And Fletcher knows his way around the same Oneida golf course where the boys are going for sectionals, having individually won the Bay Conference golf championship on May 19.
Fuhs researched results from all regional tournaments in Divisions 1, 2 and 3 and found that New London’s regional team score ties for fifth place when combining all three divisions.
“We set lofty goals this year and the guys just keep knocking them down,” Fuhs said.
If New London finishes in the top two teams at Brown County Golf Course in Oneida, they will move on to the state tournament June 8 and 9 at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona, 10 miles southwest of Madison.
For the last two years New London golf sent to state Austin Elsner. A 2014 New London High School graduate, Austin tied for 14th in 2013 and tied for 37th last year.
Sophomore Landon Elsner wants to follow in his brother’s footsteps, but not alone. Because Fuhs will discontinue coaching after this year, Elsner said the five boys want to make it to state for “Fuhsy.”
“Everybody is talented enough to go,” Fuhs said, “but it’s so hard to get the whole team there because you’ve got a 2-in-8 chance.”
To qualify for state individually a contender must shoot in the top three at the Division 1 sectional and not be part of either top-two team that advances. Qualifying individually is harder, Fuhs said, and he thinks the Bulldogs have a shot as a team.
“We can compete with them,” he said.