In the end, Ben Gilles didn’t get everything he wanted.
From the smile on his face, though, it seemed obvious his final round of high school golf gave him what he wanted most.
“Today was really for the team. I wasn’t worried about where I stood myself,” the senior said after leading the Madison Edgewood boys to their first WIAA Division 2 state team championship since 2010.
The Crusaders shot a four-player total of 25-over-par 313 on Tuesday for a two-day score of 623 and a 22-stroke victory over runner-up Lodi in the eight-team Division 2 field at University Ridge Golf Course.
“It only took us four years to get it done,” Gilles said with a smile, “but I’m glad we did. To finish like this is just what I was hoping for.”
Gilles shot a 3-over-par 75 to finish at 3-over 147, alone in second place behind champion Hunter Pipik of New Berlin West, who shot a Division 2-record 67 — five birdies and 13 pars — for a two-day total of 3-under 141.
Gilles certainly knew what it was like to compete for the state team title — he was a regular on the Edgewood teams that earned runner-up honors each of the past three years.
And he has been no slouch in the individual competition, tying for 10th individually as a freshman (153), taking sixth as a sophomore (153) and tying for 14th last year (158).
On Tuesday, it was Gilles’ steady late play — including a birdie on the 17th hole — that helped the Crusaders rescue themselves from the Blue Devils’ late charge.
Edgewood started the day with a nine-stroke lead over Lodi, but the margin shrunk to as small as three strokes as players got going on the back nine.
“We were struggling there for a while,” Crusaders coach Joe Ring said. “Lodi was right at our heels, and I honestly wasn’t sure if we were going to right the ship.”
As has so often been the case for the deep Crusaders, someone rose from the supporting ranks. This time it was No. 5 junior Matthew Phelan, who shot a 2-over-par 74 to help Edgewood pull away as Lodi faded late.
“On the third hole, I hit a nice shot — right in there, tight — and I knew it was going to be a good day,” Phelan said. “From there, I just tried to play my game.”
Meanwhile, the magical finish sought by Lodi seniors Jacob Michel and Logan Walzer did not materialize. Michel tied for third individually with his second consecutive 74 for a two-day total of 4-over 148. But Walzer — who shot a 4-under 71 at the sectional — struggled to a 78 to finish in 10th at 13-over 157.
“It’s been a very emotional few days, with graduation on Sunday and golf on Monday and Tuesday,” said Michel, who joined Walzer on Lodi’s state championship team of 2015 and last year’s third-place team.
“I felt we played well, but we could have done better. … I didn’t play very well at all, but I was able to keep my head up and have fun with it,” Michel said.
Another pair that had plenty of fun was the Lakeside Lutheran brother duo of junior Isaac Heckmann and sophomore Lukas Heckmann. Isaac shot an even-par 72 to finish at 4-over 148 for the tournament, tied with Michel for third place. Lukas shot a 77 to finish at 6-over 150, good for fifth.
- Where it came from, Madison Abundant Life co-op sophomore Jack Rollins wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he had the round of his life — a 2-under-par 70 that lifted him into a fifth-place tie in the individual standings.
“I only missed one fairway all day, and that was by two yards,” said Rollins, the team’s No. 2 player who opened the tournament with an 85 and had never shot better than 81 in any tournament until Tuesday.
“I had the shortest drive of everybody, every time,” Rollins said, “but my putting made up for the difference.”
The most dramatic shot of the tournament came from Eleva-Strum senior Matthew Higley. Needing a birdie to avoid a playoff with Sheboygan Lutheran’s Drake Wilcox for the individual title, Higley reached the green in two on the par-5 ninth hole and two-putted for the championship, shooting 72 for a two-day total of 150.
Fond du Lac St. Mary’s Springs earned a third consecutive team title, shooting 322 to finish at 648, 27 strokes ahead of Eleva-Strum. Rollins and senior Boomer Zierath (26-over 170) led Abundant Life to third place in the program’s first state trip.