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Creating memories of a lifetime

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s golf team captured their first conference championship this year. UW-Green Bay Women’s Golf photo

By Jordon Lawrenz

Contributing Writer

GREEN BAY – After a second-place finish in last year’s Horizon League Championship, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay women’s golf team captured their first ever conference championship.

The UWGB women put up a 914 throughout the three-day tournament, finishing with +50 — 12 strokes better than second place Oakland.

The Phoenix are coached by Lee Reinke, who just captured the program’s first coach of the year recognition. 

“Last year stung a bit — other than the COVID year where the conference championship was held at Purdue University it has been at Mission Inn Resort in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida for 10+ years,” Reinke stated. “We shot a score last year that would have won 8 of the previous 9 years, we just ran into a buzzsaw. Winning this year with this group of ladies is definitely a special feeling.”

Things weren’t looking good for the Phoenix after day one of competition.

Green Bay found themselves in sixth place out of eight, but coach Reinke delivered a strong message to the ladies.

“I’ve seen all too often seniors put undo pressure on themselves as it’s likely their last college tournament. I told them we couldn’t play any worse that first day and we were only 7 strokes back. I told them not to be cliché, but they don’t hand out trophies after day one,” Reinke said.

Courtney Matschke, a fifth-year senior out of Franklin, echoed Reinke’s quote.

“The first round I definitely struggled. I think it was a combination of maybe just having too much pressure on myself and just the nerves of it potentially being our last college tournament,” Matschke said.

Ashley Kulka is in her sixth year with the program.

The Beaver Dam native improved 13 spots from her performance in last year’s conference tournament. 

“Another year of experience at the same conference course allowed me to feel more comfortable there. In March over spring break, we were able to get to Florida as a team and play at Mission Inn. I think that trip really helped us gain more exposure to the course and more confidence in playing there,” Kulka stated.

With almost half of the team in their fifth or sixth year, Kulka discussed her journey as a Phoenix, “Six years here at Green Bay has not felt that long. My sophomore year I took a medical redshirt when I had to have surgery on my left ankle. Taking that year off from golf showed me how much I wanted to accomplish great things with this team at Green Bay.

“Unfortunately, my first year back was cut short with being sent home with COVID. The next three years I felt we really grew as a team and started accomplishing such great things. UW Green Bay golf has allowed me to learn how to be a leader.”

Similar to Matschke, Isabelle Maleki is a fifth-year senior.

Maleki finished second in last year’s Horizon League Championship, but was still undecided as to whether she would come back for year five.

“Deciding to stay for a 5th year was a tough decision for me to make.” Maleki stated. “I was planning on applying to PA (physician assistant) school and I wasn’t sure I wanted to push it back a year. But after having a lot of conversations with my parents and older brother I knew that coming back for a 5th year is what I wanted to do.  Being able to experience one more year with my teammates and coach is something that I would never trade for anything.”

Simply put, “I was not ready to leave my second family just yet. Another reason is that I knew what this team would be capable of the next year and I wanted to be apart of that,” she added.

As Maleki expected, the team was capable of a whole lot.

With Maleki and Kulka taking home All-League Second Team honors, the Phoenix are heading to Pullman, Wash., May 8-10 as part of the NCAA Regional. 

“We do not know the course but have been researching it daily,” Reinke said. “From the course to the elevation change from GB (500 compared to 2600 in Pullman) — the good thing is they have bentgrass greens, tees, and fairways which will feel like home for us.”

With the Horizon League Championship ending back on April 25, the Phoenix have roughly two weeks off before regionals begin on Monday, May 8.

Reinke relayed Green Bay’s schedule for the coming days, “Saturday we fly to Spokane, Washington and drive down to Pullman. Sunday is the practice round, Monday-Wednesday are Rounds 1-2-3, and Thursday we fly back to Green Bay where the ladies will make-up their finals exams. They will be studying throughout the week for sure.”

Matschke’s performance in day three of the Horizon League Championship was one to remember.

The Franklin native tallied a 71 (-1) which was the best individual performance for a Phoenix throughout the tournament. 

“I know for me the last round I honestly just felt really calm before and during the round and I had just accepted in my mind that whatever was going to happen was going to happen and we were going to finish as a team and wherever the cards fell, they fell,” Matschke stated. 

“To be able to see all the hard work that this team has put in come to fruition and for us to finally achieve something that we’ve been working towards has been so rewarding. Watching the selection show was definitely surreal. I mean we just achieved this amazing goal of ours by winning conference and then it became real when we got to see some of the teams that we will be playing with at regionals. This kind of competition is not something we get to experience every day, so I know we are all just so grateful for the opportunity to go play at an amazing course and be there with some really great golfers.”

When asked what their favorite moment as a member of the UWGB women’s golf team was, the answer was unanimous — Matschke, Maleki, and Kulka all agreed that winning conference was by far their favorite. 

“Being able to come home with two tournament wins and the conference championship is the best way to finish my five years at Green Bay. what is even better is myself, Ashley, Courtney, and Lauren get a little bit longer to play for Green Bay,” Maleki stated.

“Being able to share that moment with a team that has been working so hard towards a common goal was very rewarding. Being selected to the regional we were, in Pullman, will be such an unbelievable experience,” Kulka added.

Horizon League Women’s Golf Coach of the Year Lee Reinke has been with UWGB since the 2015 season.

In his tenure with the team, academics have been a priority.

The girls currently hold a 3.8 team GPA which had them as high as third nationally.

Last year, they were also in the top 15.

With finals the same week as regionals, Reinke just asks the girls to take it all in.

“I was hopeful that we would be able to go outside our region. Going way out West feels really special and the memories these ladies will have over these two weeks will be memories that will last a lifetime,” Reinke said. 

“The Washington Region is obviously loaded: Stanford, Baylor, USC, Clemson, Kentucky, Texas Tech, Houston, North Carolina, and UNLV. Stanford is the overall #1 seed and they also have the #1 female in the world rankings.  The experience will be so much fun.”

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