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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Kasey Casper Caps Off Career with 5th place Medal, Cougars take 7th

Issue Date: June 6, 2019

A lengthy weather delay always has the potential to spell trouble for a golfer. But for Coleman senior Kasey Casper, it only seemed to kick his round into overdrive.

Casper closed out his shortened second round strong to place fifth overall among Division 3 golfers at the 2019 WIAA State Boys Golf Tournament Monday, June 3 and Tuesday, June 4 at University Ridge Golf Course in Verona.

Due to a tw0-and-a-half hour lightning delay Tuesday morning, the event ended up being shortened to 27 holes for Divisions 2 and 3 t0 ensure that Division 1 golfers could get out on the course early enough to complete their rounds.

Unlike Divisions 2 and 3, Division 1 competition has waves of golfers start on both the front and back nine and thus need all golfers to complete 18 holes in order for the round to count.

When the horn blew to begin the lightning delay at 9:31 a.m. Tuesday morning, Casper was two-over for the day and nine-over for the tournament through five holes on the back nine. He sat in seventh place at time, which would've been one spot out of the medals.

"Right before the rain delay, I double (bogeyed) and then I parred," Casper said. "I was in seventh place and I knew I had to come back and get the job done."

When play resumed, he made par on 15, notched back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 and then settled for par at the 18th hole after missing a makeable birdie putt.

For Casper, the only disappointing part was that his charge was cut short due to the time constraints imposed by the weather delay.

"I went par, birdie, birdie and then I had about a five footer for birdie on the last hole and I just missed it," Casper said. "I golfed really well this nine, but I wish we could've played 18 because I was on a roll at the end."

Thanks to his sensational finish after the delay, Casper finished with a seven-over 115 to place fifth and clinched a spot on the medal stand. He was even par on the day in his second round, tying him for the best round of the day in Division 3 with Abundant Life/Madison Country Day's Jack Rollins and Mineral Point's Simon Mitchell.

Casper also competed at the state meet in 2017 when the Cougars qualified as a team and last year again as an individual qualifier. However, this was his first time earning a medal.

Sheboygan Lutheran's Drake Wilcox brought home medalist honors in Division 3 after carding a one-over 109. Rollins (+4) was solo second, Doyle Kelly of St. Mary's Springs and Roncalli's Ian Behringer tied for third at six-over, Casper followed in fifth and Howards Grove's Ryan Splittgerber (+11) rounded out the medalists in sixth.

Elsewhere among area golfers, Oconto's Will Sherman (+34) finished in a tie for 34th overall.

Roncalli (+61) captured the Division 3 team state championship, finishing 11 shots clear of runner-up Abundant Life/Madison Country Day (+72). Coleman (+129) posted an aggregate score of 384 to place seventh of the eight Division 3 teams.

For the Cougars, in addition to Kasey Casper, Karson Casper (+20) finished tied for 22nd, Dylan Marquardt (+51) was 46th, Conner DeWitt (+56) followed in 47th and Peyton Deering (+60) was 50th.

As a team, Coleman faced its fair share of struggles in the opening round Monday. But head coach George Laitinen was pleased with the way his team responded on the second day of the tournament.

"We faltered yesterday. A couple of our kids did not play anywhere near as well as we expected," Laitinen said. "We were a little disappointed in that, but they came back today and played much better golf, which we knew they were capable of."

Laitinen chalked up the first-day struggles to being due, at least in part, to some nervousness and jitters about the big stage.

"They probably lost some concentration and I think nerves had something to do with it. I think the boys were a little nervous yesterday," he said. "We tried to prepare them for that, but there's no way to really prepare them for this course, the pressure that they play with and the amount of people around.

"As I told the guys, if you have a weakness, University Ridge will find it. It'll find your weakness and it'll show very profoundly. The kids had a good learning experience and I hope they had fun."

This year's state meet marked the end of an era of sorts for Coleman golf. Kasey Casper, one of the most prolific golfers in program history, is graduating and Laitinen will be retiring. Though outside of that, the Cougars will bring everyone else on the team back.

"We're such a young team and we're only losing one person, which is my brother," Karson Casper said. "All of us will be back next year except for him, so that's nice to see that we've got a few more years together to possibly make it back down here."

Laitinen previously served a 13-year stint as Coleman's head coach before retiring the first time. Several years later, he was asked to come back when the position opened up again. He's been back at the helm the last three years and saw the Cougars make it to state as a team for the first time in school history in 2017 and again this year, along with Kasey Casper's individual state appearance in 2018.

Current volunteer assistant Dan Perry will assume head coaching duties starting next year.

"I've been blessed to have this experience for three years," Laitinen said. "There comes a time when you have to put other priorities (ahead) " I'll spend more time with my kids and grandkids during this time of year."

For Laitinen, being able to experience the state tournament three straight years means a ton to him as he prepares to ride off into the sunset on his coaching career.

"It's just been a treat. I sent Kasey a text the other day and said thanks for the ride for the last three years," Laitinen said. "He's carried this team and he's given me this opportunity to come down and experience state for three years in a row. It's been a real pleasure. I can't say enough about how much it's meant to me."


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