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Homestead golfers look to honor Haacke's memory with state title

Highlanders cruising towards WIAA win as of Tuesday

Oct. 11, 2011

Mequon - Al Haacke was a pillar of the Homestead school community where he taught in the special education department for 40 years.

He was also a man who loved golf and who coached the Highlanders girls to their only state title in 1999. He died unfortunately much too early at the age of 66 in the summer of 2010 just a year before his beloved Highlanders, under the guidance of his successor John Krueger, entered this past Monday and Tuesday's WIAA state tournament as favorites.

Haacke's memory became a lot clearer in Krueger's mind when he spoke to his widow, Nancy, at the July 2010 funeral.

"She told me that she had a nice matted framed print of the team from 1999, and I remembered that we had an empty cabinet (at school) and wouldn't it be nice if we could put that in there," Krueger said. "It obviously meant as great deal to him. It has the photo with the scoreboard (at state) and a scorecard."

At about the same time, the girls on the current team were asking for a showcase themselves so Krueger found the coincidental events a perfect fit.

With just one little modification.

Adding some hardware

"We'd love to honor his tradition and his (Haacke's) memory a little this way, and we'd obviously like to put a little something of our own in it ourselves, because it's missing just one thing yet," Krueger said.

That "thing" is the 2011 state championship trophy, an item the Highlanders put firmly in their sites with a tremendous school record 18-hole score of 316 in the WIAA sectional at Oshkosh on Oct. 4. The top-ranked Homestead unit was a good 29 strokes ahead of second-ranked and fellow state qualifier Arrowhead (345).

At last check, Homestead was cruising towards that elusive second title, having more than a 20-shot lead at the nine-hole turn on Tuesday.

"This team never ceases to amaze me," Krueger said. "We played an 18-hole practice round (at Oshkosh) on Sunday (Oct. 2) and I felt so good about that effort that when an alumni parent called me on Monday, I told him that we were as ready to play as any team I've ever seen.

"… I mean, when we posted scores like this back in August it was like we came out of nowhere but right now, our spirits and our confidence are as high as they've ever been.

"Just a perfect frame of mind going in."

Putting on game faces

Homestead boys coach Steve O'Brien recognizes the game faces he sees on the Highlanders girls, as he has seen it on the two state championship squads of his own that he has led (1996 and 2006).

"It's a special feeling going in as the favorite," O'Brien said. "You should take it as a compliment - the best one you can get - but it doesn't mean anything. You still have to play solid golf or it all goes to waste.

"… But what I like about this group is their consistency. Their swings are so impressive and they get along so well together. They clearly enjoy each other's company. John (Krueger) has done a great job with that. He has them comfortable and confident, never nervous or edgy. They've bonded as a team and clearly enjoy the game."

That came through in a big way at the sectional, as the Highlanders also dominated the individual leader board, taking the top four spots and five of the first six. Rachel Morris medaled with a 76, while Lauren Smith was second (career best 79), Lauren Olson third (80), Emily Sweet fourth (81) and Anika Hitt sixth (83).

Krueger can only smile at all the success.

"I'm not going to put anything past this team," he said. "We're going to do like OB (O'Brien) says 'Play in the now.' We're not going to worry about the past. … Just do what we've always done. Hit greens in regulation and give ourselves chances at birdies and pars."

And in the process, maybe add one more piece of hardware to a well-deserved showcase.

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