Cavaiani and Heckmann Win WPGA Junior Champ

Write-Up Provided By: Rick Pledl
The Wisconsin PGA Championship wrapped up Wednesday afternoon in Milwaukee, where almost 300 junior golfers played on two courses located several miles apart. So it’s a good thing Wednesday was the longest day of the year.

          Of course, it’s no secret that golf keeps skewing younger and younger, and there was more of that this week at Milwaukee County courses Brown Deer Park GC and Dretzka Park GC. For what is likely to be the first time ever, the Wisconsin PGA Section is sending a 15-year-old boy, Lukas Heckmann, and a 16-year-old girl, Abby Cavaiani, to the PGA of America’s flagship junior championship.

          That’s unusual considering players 18 and younger are eligible for the Wisconsin tournament.

          Heckmann, a 15-year-old resident of Middleton, shot two rounds of 69 to win the overall boys title at the WPGA Junior this week. Heckmann played par-71 Brown Deer Tuesday in wet conditions and finished up Wednesday at par-72 Dretzka.

Heckmann’s twin 69s left him at 5-under 138 for the tournament, two strokes lower than Piercen Hunt, another 15-year-old from Hartland. Hunt finished with rounds of 71-69–140.

          Heckmann made four birdies Wednesday, including on 17 and 18 to end on a high note, offset by one bogey. He rolled in a 15-foot putt on 17 and a 4-footer on the 18th green. He also made four birdies in his Tuesday round.

“I played well,” Heckmann said. “I saved myself a lot with the putter from 10 feet and in, which was nice. I was confident today with the putter.”

          Hunt made more birdies (11) than Heckmann in this tournament, but he also made more bogeys (8).

“Today, I hit the ball really well, but I just made too many little mistakes,” Hunt said. “I think I had eight bogeys on the week, and it’s just tough to go super-low when you’re making bogeys. Hat’s off to Lukas, he hit the ball really well.”

Hunt was the Division 1 medalist at the WIAA high school golf championships earlier this month while leading his school, Hartland Arrowhead, to the team title. He did that as a freshman.

          “Ever since the middle of the high school season I’ve just gotten better at scrambling, grinding out rounds and shooting good rounds when I’m not hitting it great,” Piercen said of his stellar play of late.

          Both Heckmann and Hunt were able to coast past first-round leader Jed Baranczyk, who was in the 16-18 age group and therefore on the other side of the draw. Baranczyk played Dretzka Tuesday, where he shot 69, and Brown Deer Wednesday, adding a final round 74 to finish five strokes behind Heckmann.

          “It was really fun,” Heckmann said. “I’m feeling pretty good right now. I played well, which is always good. It’s a lot of fun playing with guys like Piercen challenging me He’s really good player.”

          There was a four-way tie for fourth place at 146 in the boys overall competition between Clayton Tribus of Madison (75-71), Matthew Zimmerman of Janesville (75-71) and Drew Arndt of Madison (74-72).

          In the age divisions, Heckmann won the boys 13-15 category, while Baranczyk won the 16-18 competition.

          Also noteworthy, Ethan Wilkins of Sussex made a hole-in-one on Wednesday on Brown Deer’s par-3 11th hole, measuring 186 yards.

          The overall girls title was also decided in come-from-behind fashion thanks to Cavaiani, who lives in Wales. Cavaiani had an eventful round Wednesday at Dretzka, recording five birdies and six bogeys on the way to a round of 73. She shot 76 Tuesday at Brown Deer and finished at 149.

          That was three shots clear of Taylor McCorkle of Oregon, who shot 73-79–152 to finish second. Emily Lauterbach of Hartland finished third overall among girls (77-77­–154) and Maria Seeman was fourth (75-81–156).

          The girls overall title turned on Dretzka’s par-4 17th hole, where Cavaiani and McCorkle were tied on the tee. Cavaiani recorded her final birdie of the day on the 17th, but McCorkle suffered a double-bogey. So Cavaiani walked off the 17th green with a three-stroke lead, and she held that lead with a par on the final hole. When asked what carried her to victory, Cavaiani, who shot 34 on the back nine Wednesday, said her keys were more mental than physical.“I was really focused on not worrying about the results, and just working on the process of making good swings,” Cavaiani said. “I’ve found that when I get ahead of myself, I put too much pressure on myself.”

This season for the first time, the Wisconsin PGA has two exemptions for both boys and girls into the PGA Junior National Championship. Previously, one player of each gender advanced. So Heckmann and Cavaiani will join Bennett Knapek and Seeman – medalists at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational early this month – at the national event July at CC of St. Albans in Missouri. The girls championship will be held July 18-21, and the boys championship will be July 31-Aug. 3.

          “I’m really excited about the opportunity to play in the national tournament,” Cavaiani said Wednesday.