Tomahawk sports history: Golf
By Bob Skubal
Retired coach, historian, author of ‘History of Tomahawk Sports’
TOMAHAWK – THS first started golf in 1961. This author was able to find the results of one competition, but not able to find out who the coach was for that year. The one competition found was against Rhinelander, with Tomahawk losing 313-362. Team members for that season were Ken Kjer, Lorney Haugen, Bill Ball, John Gable and Lynn Scheller.
Although not much was discovered that first season and for a few years following, you will note that boys’ golf has been highly successful over the years. Tomahawk has had 10 varsity coaches in its 58-year history, with Garth Gerstenberger having the longest tenure as varsity coach with 26 seasons.
Golf has won six conference titles (1974, co-1990, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003), five regional titles (1974, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003), one sectional title (2000) and made three state team appearances (1999, 2000, 2002). In addition to these team honors, in 2000, Dan Hurth was individual state runner-up. THS also has produced 94 all conference athletes and 5 individual state qualifiers.
Not much was discovered until the 1966 season. Following are some of the highlights of the program from 1968 to the present.
In 1968, under Russ Schauf, Tomahawk won their first dual meet with a 171-178 victory over Lakeland.
THS, again under Russ Schauf, started to make some noise in 1969. Golf was still not an official Lumberjack Conference sport, but that season THS won three triangular meets and one dual meet. The dual meet was a 233-234 victory over Park Falls, in which the team winner was determined when the fifth person’s score was counted.
1973 saw Tomahawk win their first big invitational when they were champions of the 16-team Thunderbird Invite. In this meet, THS defeated Ladysmith by one stroke (Tomahawk was led by Tom Leverance, who shot an 85).
1974 saw THS play both a spring and fall sport season. In the spring season, Tomahawk was second in conference behind Ashland, earning their first regional title and missing going to state by four strokes as a team. John Krueger, John Hein, and Ed Schmit also became the first All-Conference athletes for Tomahawk. The fall of 1974 team was coached by Dick Huseby and saw THS win their first conference championship. All-Conference athletes were John Hein, Ed Schmit, and Tom Paulson.
In the 1975 season, the Lumberjack Conference was divided into two divisions. The Southern Division consisted of Tomahawk, Medford, Mosinee, and Lakeland, while the Northern Division consisted of Ashland, Hurley, Phillips, and Park Falls.
The 1976 season saw the two divisions change. The Southern Division consisted of Tomahawk, Mosinee, Nekoosa, Medford, and Phillips. The Northern Division consisted of Ashland, Park Falls, Lakeland, Eagle River, and Hurley.
The 1977 season was highlighted when Pete Brown was Lumberjack Conference Southern Division medalist.
In 1978, a notable accomplishment was at sectionals, when Jim Bugarin hit a hole-in-one on the par 3, 124-yard #4 hole. Pete Brown also became the first individual state qualifier for THS.
1987 was the final season for golf as a fall sport. There was no WIAA-sponsored state golf tournament for those schools choosing to play golf in the fall. The final competition for THS in the fall was when they placed second at the Wisconsin Rapids North/South Tourney. It was often said that this was the unofficial state tournament. The next competition for THS would be in the spring of 1989.
1990 was the second year of the return to spring golf. THS would be co-conference champions with Eagle River. Garth Gerstenberger was also voted Lumberjack Conference Co-Coach of the Year. THS placed third at sectionals as a team, and Pete Theiler lost a bid to state when he was beaten on the first hole of a sudden death playoff.
The 1996 season saw Mike Sandry hit a hole-in-one on hole #16 at the Eagle River Invite.
1999 was the first trip to state for THS as a team under Garth Gerstenberger and Todd Frederickson. Prior to tournament play, THS won the Pacelli Invite, the Antigo Invite, and the Phillips Invite. Tomahawk won runner-up honors at the Medford Invite and the Hatchet Invite (THS lost to DCE on the 10th hole, which predetermined to be the playoff hole for any ties) and the Park Falls Invite. Tomahawk placed second at regionals (THS came back from being five strokes down after nine holes) and second at sectionals, just four strokes off DePere’s shooting 333 for the title. THS placed 8th as a team at state with a score of 362. State team members were Jay Kolodize, Ryan Brunner, Cory Schiller, Chad Schouweiler, and Dan Hurth.
2000 saw Tomahawk return to the state tournament under the direction of Garth Gerstenberger and Todd Frederickson. That season, THS would be Lumberjack Conference champions, regional champions, and sectional champions. In the final standings of the conference, Tomahawk was 3 ½ points ahead of second-place Park Falls. The season saw Tomahawk win the Antigo Invite, the Medford Invite as well as Conference Meet #1 at Medford and Conference Meet #4 at Park Falls. In addition, THS was second at the Hatchet Invite, Mosinee Triangular, Conference Meet #3 at Eagle River and the Park Falls Invite. All-Conference honors went to Dan Hurth, Cory Schiller, Sean DeBels, and Nate Nelmark. At regionals, THS beat second-place Mosinee by 20 strokes with Dan Hurth as medalist. Sectionals saw Tomahawk beat second-place Kimberly by 13 strokes. At state, Tomahawk finished in eighth place, with Dan Hurth finishing up as individual state runner-up. Dan was also voted honorable mention All-State. State participants were Dan Hurth, Jay Kolodze, Cory Schiller, Sean DeBels, and Nate Nelmark. Garth Gerstenberger was also voted Lumberjack Conference Coach of the Year.
In 2001, Tomahawk was conference and regional champions under the direction of Garth Gerstenberger and Todd Frederickson. They would win the Phillips Invite, Conference Meet #1 at Phillips, Hatchet Invite, Tomahawk Invite, Eagle River Shoot Out, and Conference Meet #3 (Nick Nelmark was medalist). All-Conference honors went to Cory Schiller, Nick Nelmark, Sean DeBels-honorable mention, Rene L’Esperance-honorable mention, and Andy Hein-honorable mention. At regionals, Cory Schiller and Rene L’Esperance would tie for second, while Andy Hein was fourth, Nick Nelmark sixth, and Brad DeBels eighth. THS would place third at sectionals and see their season end. Cory Schiller was voted Lumberjack Conference Player of the Year, and Garth Gerstenberger was voted Lumberjack Conference Coach of the Year
2002 saw THS become conference champions and regional champions. They would place second at sectionals, and return to state as a team under the direction of Garth Gerstenberger and Todd Fredrickson. Tomahawk would win the Mosinee Invite, Medford Invite, Tomahawk Invite, Lakeland Invite, Lumberjack Conference Meet #2, Eagle River Invite, Lumberjack Conference Meet #3 (Nate Nelmark was medalist), Rhinelander Quadrangular, and the Eagle River Invite before securing the conference championship with 20 points. THS was three points ahead of second-place Eagle River. All-Conference honors went to Nate Nelmark, Brad DeBels, Tom Kamrath, Rene L’Esperance-honorable mention, and Nick Nelmark-honorable mention. Nate Nelmark was voted Lumberjack Conference Player of the Year, and Garth Gerstenberger was voted Lumberjack Conference Coach of the Year. At regionals Brad DeBels would be crowned regional champion as Tomahawk scored 326 strokes, compared to 334 for Oconto. West DePere would win sectionals with 322 strokes, while Tomahawk shot 328. Rene L’Esperance was runner-up at sectionals, and Appleton Xavier (the defending state champions) would place fourth as a team. At state, Tomahawk would place sixth as a team with 494 strokes. Brad DeBels and Rene L’Esperance were selected to the Academic All-State Team.
In 2003, Tomahawk was conference champions and regional champions for the fourth-straight year. All-Conference honors went to Nick Nelmark, Marcus Steigerwaldt, Rene L’Esperance, and Brad DeBels. THS won regionals, shooting a 304, which was 19 strokes better than Peshtigo. The team placed fifth at sectionals with Brad DeBels tying for third but losing a playoff bid for state. Nick Nelmark was Lumberjack Conference Player of the Year, and Garth Gerstenberger was Lumberjack Conference Coach of the Year. Brad DeBels, Rene L’Esperance, and Marcus Steigerwaldt are selected to the Academic All-State team.
In 2004, THS was third at sectionals. They were tied for the lead after 17 holes, but had troubles on the 18th hole. Nick Nelmark was the sectional champion with a 75, qualifying him for state.
2008 saw Alex Cummings selected as Co-Lumberjack Conference Player of the Year.
In 2009, Austin Kammer had a hole-in-one on hole #10 at the Tomahawk Invite.
In 2010, Troy Salewski placed second in the conference standings after tying Mike Shinners of Antigo and losing on a sudden death playoff. Troy Timm was selected to the Academic All-State golf team.
2011 saw Troy Salewski voted Great Northern Conference Golfer of the Year and named to the All-State honorable mention golf team. Troy Timm was selected to the Academic All-State team.
In 2015, Mike Lodholz, Michelle Lodholz, and Andy Tessmer were selected to the Academic All-State Team.
2016 saw Mike Lodholz, Michelle Lodholz, Andy Tessmer and Andrew Cook selected to the Academic All-State Team.
In 2017, Andrew Cook, Michelle Lodholz, Riley Tollison, Ty Gerstenberger, and Peyton Hamm earned Academic All-State honors by the Wisconsin High School Golf Coaches Association. All five individuals who made the academic team award were individual academic all-state. Tomahawk had the second-highest GPA in the state (based off of the five golfers who participated in regionals).
2018 saw Fischer Michalski, Karson Bartz, and Cody Scholz selected to the Academic All-State Team.
In, 2019 Garth Gerstenberger was voted Great Northern Conference Coach of the Year. Ty Gerstenberger and Cody Scholz were selected to the Academic All-State Team.