Twin sisters Lauren and Courtney Shorter have followed different paths in college after leading the Verona girls’ golf team to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in 2017.
Lauren has had more surgeries on her knee (three) than matches played at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (0), while Courtney has been a fixture as and one of the top five golfers since her freshman year at St. Thomas University. She has also provided a shoulder to cry on, support and motivation for Lauren, who has had 2 ½ years wiped out because of recurring knee pain.
The Shorter twin sisters, 2018 Verona Area High School graduates of Fitchburg, have also dealt with trying to improve their golf games amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lauren Shorter underwent her third surgery on her mensius about two weeks ago — a meniscus transplant surgery at Rush Medical Center in Chicago conducted by Dr. Brian Cole, the team physician for the Chicago Bulls and Managing Partner at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush Hospital. She had waited three months for the transplant, which replaced her own “shredded” meniscus.
“I have been dealing with this pain for a long time,” she said. “I did some research on the Internet and I knew going to him would be my best bet.”
During the surgery, Cole replaced Lauren’s damaged meniscus with one from a cadaver donor. She has to wear a brace on her knee while she develops more flexibility — her first mission — working on bending her knee and stretching her quad to strengthen them. She’ll also have to be on crutches for around three months and will undergo a stringent physical therapy session two hours per day, with hopes of swinging a club by March.
“It’s teaching yourself how to do everything again,” Lauren said. “It will be getting the muscle memory back and learning how to swing. Hopefully, I don’t have to change my swing with my knee.”
In the meantime, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay biology major has found a silver lining in rehabbing the injury.
“I think having to sit out for 2 ½ years has given me an entire different perspective about golf,” she said. “I have read more books to improve my mental game and to get through the injury.”
And a big part of her support group is her sister.
Courtney, who worked at the Blackhawk Country Club in Madison over the summer, would take Lauren with her when she played.
“I want to keep her motivation up to be back on the course after she heals and gets her swing back,” Courtney said. “She sits in the golf cart, watches me and gives me tips and pointers.”
The Shorter sisters text, Facetime and talk often about the challenges of golf and life.
“She has been a huge support system for me,” Lauren said. “If it’s a bad day for me pain-wise, she knows what to say to lift me up or give me motivation going forward.”
Another outlet Lauren has in her recovery from injury is her hobby for painting.
“It helps me get my mind off school and my knee and get in my own little world to paint,” she said.
Courtney, St. Thomas on rise
Courtney Shorter has been a star for the St. Thomas University women’s golf team since she stepped on the St. Paul, Minnesota campus.
She is entering her junior year looking to improve on the 83 average on 18-holes she shot last fall. Courtney finished 25th at the MIAC Championship last year with a three-day tidal of 251 at the Pebble Creek Golf Course in Becker, Minnesota. Three of the five players for the Tommies had their best score in the final round and St. Thomas finished fourth in the conference tournament.
The Tommies had one of the youngest teams in Division III, with four freshmen, two sophomores and two juniors on the roster last year. Despite its youth, St. Thomas jumped from 61st to 27th in the final Division III national Golfstat computer ranking.
Courtney said college golf is similar to competing on the golf team at Verona except the courses are a lot longer.
“There is a little bit more pressure because everyone there is very good,” she said.
Fall golf season pushed back to spring 2021
MIAC Presidents’ Council announced Aug. 31 that conference golf play in fall 2020 would be postponed until spring 2021.
“The fall season being canceled really was heartbreaking for us,” Courtney said. “We had about four or five days of practice in and it was just like a punch to the gut after hearing it because of all the hard work we put in.”
Before the league ruling, St. Thomas Women’s Golf was set to play five tournaments over five consecutive weekends, capped by the three-day, 54-hole conference competition Oct. 3-5.
Courtney played in the Wisconsin State Women’s Open, Wisconsin Women’s State Amateur and the Balance and Believe Invitational over the summer. She also spent time working on her chipping and putting before working at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison each week.
“I was excited to get back into the tournament season,” she said of last spring’s golf season being canceled because of the COVID-19 crisis. “It (Blackhawk Country Club) gave me the environment to go hit balls and work on my game. I really concentrated on my putting and focused to do my best.”
To help with any anxiety of last spring’s golf season being canceled, Courtney leaned on her hobby — fashion — to fill the void. She developed a fashion blog and shared various clothing she had made.
“It really kept me motivated to have my deadlines and marks to do,” she said.
This is the final season St. Thomas is playing in the Division III MIAC. Next year, St. Thomas is moving to the Division I Summit League.
“I’m not sure what golfing in a Division I tournament will be like,” Courtney said. “I know the courses are much longer, but I’m excited to have the experience my senior year.”