NEW GLARUS — Verona senior Lauren Shorter felt right at home.
“I definitely feel like I have figured out the course,” Shorter said. “I know the ins and outs.”
Shorter shot a 3-over-par 75, including a 2-under 34 on the front nine, and claimed medalist honors at the WIAA Division 1 Verona girls golf sectional Wednesday at Edelweiss Chalet Country Club — the Wildcats’ home course for the past two years.
“I think it’s really helpful,” Shorter said of playing at Edelweiss. “I know where to play the ball and where not to play the ball, and the best angles to make birdies.”
Shorter started strong, draining 15-foot putts for birdies on the first and fourth holes. Shorter wound up two strokes ahead of runner-up Payton Hodson, a senior from Middleton who shot 37 on the front nine.
“I told her, ‘You were in the zone,’ ” Verona coach Jon Rebholz said of Shorter. “Her start was excellent.”
Middleton and Verona each shot 345 to lead the eight teams, earning the two berths for the WIAA Division 1 state tournament Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge Golf Course.
“We definitely knew it would be close with Middleton and to tie for first is pretty cool,” said Shorter, a UW-Green Bay recruit.
Shorter and twin sister Courtney, who shot 84, led the Wildcats, ranked 10th in the state coaches’ poll. Hodson, a Valparaiso recruit, and sophomore Kate Meier, who had an 83, led the fifth-ranked Cardinals.
“It’s awesome,” Middleton coach Becky Halverson said. “It’s even more great for Payton, being her senior year. This is what she dreamt of; she wanted to make it to state for the third year in a row. It’s exciting for all the girls, especially for the younger ones.”
A playoff to determine first place — essentially to determine which team received the sectional championship plaque — was necessary and Middleton wound up as winner.
The Cardinals and Wildcats were tied after two extra holes, their top four scores totaling 17 each time. Darkness set in — after 10 hours of golf — and a scorecard playoff was ordered.
Middleton (175) edged Verona (181) on the back-nine tiebreaker.
“That would have been quite a different story if it was for going to state,” Halverson said. “Both teams knew they were going to state, so it was more fun than anything. It was nice for the girls to be able to play alongside each other for a change. I think they had fun doing it.”
Waunakee finished third, 11 strokes behind. Waunakee junior Sam Soulier and Monona Grove junior Klairissa O’Reilly-Dye tied for third with 82s.
Soulier, O’Reilly-Dye and Madison West junior Lillian Knetter, who shot 83, were the three individuals not on qualifying teams who advanced to state.
Verona had a five-shot lead over Middleton after the first nine holes. But the Cardinals, who will make their 18th state appearance and sixth consecutive trip, stepped up their game.
“We knew we needed to gain some ground on the back nine,” said Halverson, whose team was Division 1 runner-up last year and won the title in 2015. “We never let the girls know that, but we were definitely there for them in the harder situations to keep them calm and focused.”
Verona will head to state for the fifth time, after finishing fourth in 2015. The Wildcats won in 2014.
“I’m so happy for the girls — there are four seniors of the five,” Rebholz said. “What a great way for them to end their careers — at state. … It will be a great reward for these kiddos. They hung in there. They had a great front nine. The oil started leaking on the back nine, but they held it together when they needed to. I’m very proud of them.”