When Caroline Lewison’s final putt of the WIAA Division 1 Oregon sectional dropped in the 18th hole at Foxboro Golf Club on Oct. 4, the Baraboo senior thought it was the last stroke of her high school career.
A couple hours later, she was celebrating with teammates after becoming the third Baraboo girls’ golfer ever to qualify for the WIAA state meet.
“Once the last group of girls headed in we got the final results,” Lewison, who has never attended state, said of when she knew she had advanced. “One of my teammates, Gaby Jurvelin, started crying and it was just a very relieving moment and exciting thing to experience.
“Coach (Steve) Lien, my teammates — Gaby Jurvelin, Kayla Capener and Meg Turkington — all came to watch me. Seeing them there was definitely encouraging and brought a smile to my face.”
Lewison earned that smile by shooting a season-best 12-over-par 82. That was good for a seventh-place finish, which earned her the final of the three individual-qualifying spots for the WIAA state tournament on Monday and Tuesday at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.
“Caroline was very steady off the tee and hit her driver well. That is clearly her strength,” first-year Baraboo head coach Steve Lien said, noting that sectionals was unique because Lewison was the only Thunderbird competing. “Being with Caroline at sectionals for the entire round allowed us to discuss club selection and strategy on each hole.
“The practice round really helped us get a feel for how to play the course. It was fun to be on the course with just one player to worry about.”
Lewison wasn’t worried about much.
The four-year varsity regular was just focused on having a good time and playing some good golf. That allowed her to build on her 13th-place regional finish, when she shot an 84 at Portage Country Club to qualify for sectionals for the first time in her career.
Having expected her season to be done by now, two days of golf at University Ridge is a bit of icing on the cake. She’ll try to use that to her advantage, and play with the same free attitude that she used at sectionals.
“I walked into Monday knowing I had a chance to make it, but I wasn’t really expecting much,” Lewison said. “I played very loose and I wasn’t really nervous the whole time because I knew how many really good golfers there were to compete with that day.
“We were one of the first groups done and I honestly didn’t expect my score to hold up, so as groups started to finish and my score was still leading, I got more nervous as time went on. I felt I was pretty positive the whole day, I started out with a triple bogey to start my round, so just being able to move on from bad shots and bad holes helped me to stay relaxed and just have fun.”
Lien said that he’s not sure Lewison could have bounced back from that round-opening triple bogey earlier this season. But he has watched her improve her course management and ability to handle adversity, part of which she credits to her head coach.
“We have all been very fortunate to have Lien coach us this year and he has made such an impact on all of our scores,” Lewison said. “I definitely would not have scored how I did Monday without him. I think I’ve matured a lot as a golfer by being able to get over bad shots and just learning how to manage courses better and playing smart.”
The development has been quick in the two months since high school golf practice started across Wisconsin. Lewison tried to golf when she could this summer, but was also busy with her last season on the Baraboo Thunder club softball program operated by her dad, Dan.
“We usually had tournaments on the weekends for softball, so I would try to get out a couple of times a week at most,” Lewison said. “I was still trying to enjoy my last summer of Thunder softball while still making time to practice.”
By the time she reported to actual practice on Aug. 9, her teammates thought she was ready to lead.
“I asked the girls to vote for their captain at the beginning of the season and Caroline received the most votes,” Lien said. “That was a good indication she was viewed as a leader by her teammates. We were fortunate to have a lot of great senior leadership on this year’s team.
“I had volunteered occasionally with the girls golf team the last couple of years, so I knew that Caroline was a good player. She comes from a golfing family and has experience with the game of golf.”
The Lewison family should have a fun week ahead. Caroline will tee off at University Ridge on Monday and Tuesday to kick off a week that will conclude with her cousin, Baraboo senior Paige Lewison, playing No. 1 doubles alongside Lanie Koppie at the WIAA individual state tennis tournament from Thursday through Saturday at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison.
The week won’t spell the end for the Lewisons, who will all be on the same field in the spring for softball season. But no matter how the next two days go, Caroline will put a cap on four years of high school golf.
“My favorite part about high school golf has been spending time with my teammates. I have been so fortunate to have such supportive and encouraging teammates that have made the sport so much more fun,” Lewison said, noting that she’s excited about “just being able to enjoy the entire experience and spend some more time with my teammates that are coming to watch me.”
She’ll be the third Baraboo girl to compete at state golf. Heidi Jaslin shot a 189 over 36 holes at the 1982 state tournament, while Carly Moon carded a 180 to take 50th in 2018.
“Mainly, I just want to keep it simple — enjoy the experience, focus on the next shot and don’t worry about the things you can’t control,” Lien said of his goal heading into state. “I always tell the girls on the team I want to talk about what’s ahead, not what has already happened on the course. That is all you can control. We certainly have to be prepared for changing weather conditions, so that is always a consideration. The atmosphere at state is so great, I just want her to take it all in and create some lifelong memories.”
Caroline Lewison will again be one of the first groups out on the University Ridge course on Monday as she tees off on the first hole at 10 a.m. alongside Kettle Moraine’s Madelin Fiebig, Divine Savior Holy Angels’ Kate Kruger and Waukesha South co-op’s Nora Cerroni.