Madeline Neumeier was in need of a confidence boost heading into Day 2 of the WIAA Division 1 state meet last year.
Although she was tied for 13th as a sophomore, the Green Bay Preble golfer knew she was starting out with a pair of holes on which she carded double bogeys the day before.
As Neumeier walked out of Cherokee Country Club in Madison to begin her second round, one of her golf idols — Steve Stricker — just happened to be walking in.
The Wisconsin native and PGA Tour player stopped to say hello.
Neumeier isn’t quite sure of her exact response to Stricker’s greeting, but her play that day definitely spoke for itself. She carded a 5-over-par 77 to post a 161 score and tie for seventh.
“I was definitely in awe and really surprised to see him,” Neumeier said. “So that was something really exciting, and I think that kind of pumped me up for Day 2.”
Neumeier has carried that confidence into her junior season.
After posting a nine-hole average of 41.83 to earn first-team all-Fox River Classic Conference honors last year, Neumeier’s newfound confidence is leading to more consistency with her game.
She shot 3-over par to win the Marinette Invite on Aug. 26 at Riverside Golf Course.
Neumeier also posted a 5-over 77 at the Wisconsin Dells Invite while playing in the same group as last year’s D1 state champion, Verona junior Jessica Reinecke, who won the meet by shooting 71.
“A lot of the better golfers I’ve played with have a ton of confidence and that’s something I lacked in past years,” Neumeier said. “This year I’ve been trying to focus on being confident with every shot.
“Last year I had a few tournaments where I hit a few bad shots and kind of gave up, and this year I keep going, taking it one shot at a time and trying not to think about the bad holes.”
While seeing Stricker seemed to boost her at state last year, the reality was Neumeier’s confidence came from breaking par for the first time leading up to state.
“I think that is what gave her the confidence to finish the year strong,” Preble coach Ray Johnson said.
“I think the first day at the Dells tournament, that whole round you could see that it was finally clicking and she shot 77 that day. She didn’t even feel like she played that well that day. When you get to that level where you can shoot a 77 and not feel that you played that great, I think that’s when you know you’re at that next level.”
Neumeier has two sisters that are at least 10 years older than her. However, she was the only one of the three who picked up her parents’ passion for golf.
“I think they had each other to do things with each other,” Neumeier said. “Whereas when I was younger I would go out and collect balls while my parents golfed and wanted to really try it.”
Neumeier quickly went from the No. 4 varsity player to No. 2 as a freshman when Preble’s Olivia Lindsley placed fourth as a senior at the 2011 state meet. But she didn’t anticipate posting a top 10 finish of her own the following year and knows getting another one this season won’t be easy.
“I think she has the ability to hit all the different types of shots that she needs to hit,” Johnson said. “It’s just having the confidence that she can do it all the time. If she has a bad hole, that she can recover from it and believe in herself that she has the ability to always play well.”