The line of trees hugging the fairway on each hole posed extra challenges for Oregon senior Nicholas Kipp and his teammates during the WIAA Division 1 Portage regional on Tuesday, June 1, at the Portage Country Club.
Kipp for the most part conquered the draping trees and sand traps that provided pitfalls for many golfers during the event. Kipp finished second place in the regional with a 12-over-par 83 to help the Panthers qualify for the Janesville Parker sectional on Tuesday, June 9.
Kipp continued his strong play in the sectional, tying for sixth place with a 6-over-par 78. Kipp tied for the final individual qualifying spot to go to state but lost in the tiebreaker playoff. The Panthers finished eighth as a team with a 341.
“I have had a few tournaments where I have lost a place on a scorecard playoff,” Kipp said of regionals. “It felt good to get one in a bigger tournament than just an invite. I was hoping I could count on my team a little bit too and they could take some weight off my shoulders, and they did that.”
Oregon finished third with a 353, two strokes behind regional runner-up Sun Prairie. Monona Grove captured the regional team title (346) and Stoughton took fourth (358) to also earn sectional berths.
“Based on the team averages coming in I felt pretty confident we could advance,” Oregon coach Sara Mess said. “I didn’t want to rest on our heels. I wanted to make sure we went out and competed.”
“It’s always tough to predict golf,” Mess said. “We have been very up and down this year. Consistency is something we have been lacking this year. Maybe it’s something we can find at the end of the season.”
Oregon sophomore Billy McCorkle tied Sun Prairie’s Aiden O’Garza for sixth (87). Oregon senior Johnnie Thysse tied Stoughton’s Luke Fernholz and McFarland’s Ryan Ertel for 12th (90). Senior Gavin Rieder carded a 93 to place 19th and round out the top four for the Panthers.
Mess said the team struggled on the front nine.
“I knew it was going to be tricky because there are quite a few trees and the greens are small,” Mess said. “If you are not accurate with your approach shots, you will be chipping.”
McCorkle shot a 46 on the front but bounced back with a 5-over-par 41 on the back nine. He was the only Panther golfer to score better on the back than the front.
Kipp keeps it close at sectional tournament
As the scores rolled in at the sectional tournament at Riverside Golf Course in Janesville on Tuesday, June 8, Kipp’s 78 was near the top.
The team wasn’t sure if it’d be enough, but the senior eventually earned a spot in the playoff after tying for sixth overall and the third individual berth to state. Though he didn’t win the playoff, he said he was happy with his round despite difficulties putting.
"I was pretty happy with 12 pars and six bogeys with the fact that everything I looked at didn't go in and keeping what I would consider a pretty clean scorecard," he said.
The greens played faster than he expected them too, he said, adding that he struggled to adjust as the round progressed.
Oregon coach Sara Mess said she was proud of her top golfer, noting that all of her players struggled with the slope and speed of the greens on Tuesday.
"I think he would agree this is his most complete round, he just couldn't get those one or two putts to drop. ... but in terms of a complete round and playing smart when he needed to, playing aggressive when he needed to, I thought he did a really good job," she said.
Although Kipp was hoping to end his high school career with a trip to state, the aspiring college golfer said he feels he improved this season both mentally and physically.
“In previous years my mental game was what struggled the most, and I can pretty confidently say that that was actually probably one of my best things this year was staying pretty positive,” Kipp said “And on a day like today, it's pretty easy to get down on yourself when the par putts aren't going in, birdie putts aren't falling. So keeping a clear head was something I was pretty happy with this year."
Sophomore Billy McCorkle scored an 86 for the Panthers, who got an 88 from sophomore Logan Martin, an 89 from senior Johnie Thysse and a 97 from senior Gavin Rieder.
Mess said she was proud of her golfers, who were dealt a bit of a surprise when they learned upon arrival that the tournament would start with the tougher back nine due to scheduling conflicts.
"They really kind of struggled on that back nine that they had to play first, but everybody kind of got it together more on the front nine, so I'm proud that they kind of kept fighting through and didn't get defeated and still tried to put up a good number," she said.