With all the hats he wears at UW-Green Bay these days, Lee Reinke doesn’t play as much golf as he’d probably like. When the Phoenix men’s golf coach does, he tries to make it count.
So there was a dual-purpose to his decision to enter the Wisconsin State Golf Association state best-ball and match-play championships this summer. Reinke wanted to test out his competitive muscle memory and he wanted to keep tabs on some of his golfers as they began the summer.
Most importantly, he wanted to give them a target to beat.
“Because, I’ll tell you one thing: They don’t want to get beat by me,” Reinke said. “For a couple reasons: 1) They don’t want to lose to a 50-year-old guy and 2) to a guy who happens to be their coach because then we’ve got to look at him and hear from him. I let them hear about it.”
For the record, Reinke and junior Bennett Hutson lost in a playoff to sophomore Brady Sarauer and Chico State (Calif.) golfer Chris Colla for the final match-play spots at the best-ball event. (They did finish one shot ahead of Phoenix sophomores George Kneiser and Patrick Sicula.)
Reinke successfully made it through a local qualifier for the WSGA match-play championship at the expense of Hutson, who was the first alternate. Hutson eventually got into the tournament, but neither he (90) nor teammates George Kneiser (97), Patrick Sicula (89), Jimmy Albright (85) nor Sarauer (84) were able to beat the coach (83) in the stroke-play qualifier on a brutally tough day for scoring at The Bog GC in Saukville (even Ray Fischer State Amateur champ Jack Schultz shot an 86) as Reinke was the only one to make it to match play.
Still, the experiences were two examples of efforts being made to boost the Phoenix program.
“We went six holes with three other groups,” Reinke said of the best-ball playoff for the right to play eventual champions Matthew Bachmann and Charlie Maleki of Marquette. “That would’ve been pretty fun. After the third playoff hole, we went to the first hole and they were just hanging out and I said ‘Everybody is trying to get to play with you.’ That would have been fun for me.”
There was something symbolic in Reinke’s quest to get him and Hutson a chance to play the Big East Conference medalist in Bachmann and Maleki, who was also in the lineup a month earlier when the Golden Eagles rallied from 17 shots down the final day to win the team title.
Green Bay is ranked No. 250 out of 297 NCAA Division I programs, according to GolfStat.com. Under Reinke, the Phoenix have done a better job of landing recruits that don’t wind up on the rosters of No. 115 Wisconsin and No. 113 Marquette, but Reinke said there is work to be done and he believes this 2017-18 squad can continue to take Green Bay in the right direction.
“As far as expectations, I’d like to see us finish in the top half of every event, maybe top five of every event,” said Reinke, whose team finished fifth out of eight teams last spring at the Horizon League Championship, six shots out of third. "I'd like to see us turn that corner. I think we're more than capable of (doing that)."
At the same time, he knows his team is younger than most and some of its shortcomings -- course management will be a point of emphasis, Reinke said -- will take time to improve.
He will take his lone senior (Albright), one of his two juniors (Hutson), two sophomores (Sicula and Kneiser) and a freshman (Ben Gilles) to the Murray State Invitational, which is Monday and Tuesday at Murray, Kentucky. Sarauer, another sophomore, will compete as an individual.
“It’s going to be competitive to see who travels every week.” said Reinke, who also has junior Jeff Stemper and a promising freshman in Mequon Homestead’s Max Pasher on the roster. “That was the goal 2½ years ago -- get it to the point where it’s really competitive to get in that van. Competitive breeds not contentment. It’s like ‘I’ve got to work or I’m not going to travel.’ And that is the environment we want and the culture we want.”