Beckman wins state golf title

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Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Jacob Beckman became the fifth golfer in school history to win a WIAA Division 1 individual state championship./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

WISCONSIN DELLS — Thirty-nine months ago, Jacob Beckman walked into Middleton’s boys golf program and wasn’t bashful.

The baby faced, yet ultra-gifted Beckman outlined his goals. And he wasn’t afraid to aim big.

“The goal that I set for myself the very first day of practice my freshman year was to win a state championship,” Beckman said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Beckman capped his memorable Middleton career in style. Beckman sank a 3-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Wild Rock Golf Club and became just the fifth golfer in school history to win a WIAA Division 1 state championship.

Beckman shot a 4-under-par, 140 over the two-day tournament and edged Hudson’s Bennett Swavely by one shot. Kettle Moraine’s Ben Pausha, who made a late charge with a 5-under-par on the back nine that included a hole-in-one, was third at 142.

Beckman joined Brad Nelson (1993), Jon Turcott (1997), Mike Schilling (2010) and Emmett Herb (2016) as Middleton’s individual state champions.

“I just came out here and did it for everybody,” said Beckman, a University of Wisconsin recruit. “I did it for the team this year. I did it for the team last year and years past. I did it for my coaches and I did it for my family.

“It’s just an unbelievable feeling to be an individual state champion. And to do it on the very last day of high school golf, to finally come through and complete it … it hasn’t hit me quite fully yet, but it’s just really special.”

Middleton, one of the youngest teams in the tournament, finished third overall. Kettle Moraine won the first state title in program history with a blistering 598, while Homestead (617), Middleton (618), Marquette (623) and Arrowhead (624) rounded out the top-five at the 16-team field.

“If you would have told me in April that we were going to go to state, I would never have believed you,” Middleton coach Tom Cabalka said. “I would have said, ‘How? With who?’ But these kids have really come a long way.”

“They really grew up over the season. They went from being really inexperienced players that just swing the golf club and don't think about it to becoming real golfers. And that’s where I think they improved the most. They finished having confidence and composure.”

Nobody had more of that than Beckman, the Cardinals’ lone senior who led a young and inexperienced group to impressive heights.

Beckman shot an opening round 68 that included six birdies and just two bogeys. That was good for a 2-shot lead over Homestead’s Ty Mueller (70) and three better than Swavely.

Beckman started slowly on Tuesday, though, with a bogey at No. 1 and a double bogey at No. 5 and fell to 1-under-par. And for a brief stretch, Swavely and Mueller pulled even with Beckman.

“I just told myself to stay below the hole, stay in the right spot,” Beckman said. “Just keep doing what I did the first day.”

He did just that.

Beckman got red hot, making three birdies in a five-hole stretch between No. 6 and 10. And when Beckman’s approach at the par-4, 13th was 5-feet below the pin and he dropped the birdie putt, he surged to 5-under-par.

“When you talk to Jacob, he’s well beyond his age as far as knowledge of the game,” Cabalka said. “Mentally, he’s just incredibly strong. He’s been really mature for a number of years.”

There was plenty of work left, though.

Swavely, who was three holes ahead of Beckman, played the back nine at 1-under and got to the clubhouse at 3-under.

Meanwhile, inside Beckman’s own foursome, Kettle Moraine’s Pausha was catching fire. Pausha — thanks in part to his ace — played the first seven holes of the back nine at 6-under par and pulled within a shot of Beckman.

“I’ve played a lot of golf and had a lot of shots go right at the hole and I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Pausha said of his first-ever hole-in-one. “I didn’t even know how to react. I threw my arms up and just kind of went black.”

Beckman never blinked, though.

Beckman came to No. 18 with a one shot lead over Swavely, two over Pausha and bombed his drive down the right side of the fairway. Beckman had 80 yards in, needed to clear a greenside bunker, and hit a beautiful approach that ran to the fringe in back of the green.

“We had a practice round here and I had that exact same shot,” Beckman said. “I knew what it was going to do.”

Beckman putted within 3-feet, then made his short par putt to capture a state championship.

“It was just so cool coming in (at No. 18) and seeing everybody sitting on the hill,” Beckman said of the gallery at the final hole. “That was pretty awesome.”

Middleton’s team performance was pretty awesome, too.

The Cardinals finished second at state in 2019, but Beckman was the only returning player from that team. After the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID, Middleton had numerous questions when the 2021 campaign began.

But several players emerged and had solid performances at state.

Junior Alec Sosnowski finished in a tie for 21st place with a 154. Sosnowski carded a second-day 74 highlighted by a 2-under-par 34 on the back nine.

“It was probably one of the best back nines of my life,” said Sosnowski, who hit eight fairways and eight greens on the back. “I knew I had to do something special. I definitely could have made a few more putts, but I’m not complaining.”

Sosnowski, who was Middleton’s No. 6 golfer in 2019, made his first appearance at state a memorable one.

“Right from the get-go this year Alec showed phenomenal improvement over two years ago,” Cabalka said. “Now, every part of his game is really good. He plays a ton and he had the opportunity to be Jacob’s understudy and I’m sure he’s going to take these kids next year under his wing and do a phenomenal job, as well.”

Sophomore Drew Sjowall finished in a tie for 45th place with a 162 (82-80). And Middleton counted an 81 from freshman Charlie Jambor on Monday and an 81 Tuesday from freshman Dain Johnson, who played despite a painful wrist injury.

“We didn’t know if we’d be here,” Sosnowski said. “And to get third place with all these incredible teams is just awesome.”

Of course, nothing was better than the performance of Beckman, who set the loftiest of goals more than three years ago — then delivered.

“I played really good,” Beckman said. “It was definitely my best two days of the season. Perfect timing.”

Added Cabalka: “He’s been gunned after all year long. He’s been under the pressure all year long, but he really came through the last two days. The cream really came to the top.”


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