Few things were as constant in Wisconsin junior golf during 2017 as Tyler Leach being in contention at virtually every tournament he entered.
The Spring Valley golfer finished off his junior year by finishing third in defense of his WIAA Division 3 state boys championship and never finished worse than second in five Wisconsin PGA Junior points events after that. He also tied for 18th at the 116th Wisconsin State Amateur Championship at Oconomowoc GC, tops among active high school players.
Leach, a Marquette recruit, was the clear choice for the No. 1 spot in the Wisconsin.Golf boys Class of 2018 updated rankings. That’s saying something because Bay Port’s Jed Baranczyk, who signed this week to attend North Dakota State, and Madison’s Clayton Tribus, who came back to Wisconsin for the summer after another school-year stint at the IMG Academy in Florida, both compiled solid resumes but were never able to beat Leach head-to-head.
What made Leach stand out among his peers?
Let’s start with the one win on his resume at the Wisconsin Junior Masters in Racine where he rolled to a 9-and-8 victory over defending champion Grant Germano of Williams Bay in the 36-hole finale. Leach also finished runner-up to future Marquette teammate Hunter Eichhorn at the WSGA Junior Boys Championship at the Legend at Bristlecone GC in Hartland and finished second to 2017 Hartland Arrowhead grad Bennett Knapek at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational.
Over the past four years, Leach has posted 15 top-three finishes, 24 top-10s and 28 top-15s in 37 WPGA Junior points events. Going into his final season of high school golf, he has finished tied for third place (2015 and 2017) around his Division 3 state championship in 2016.
Like Eichhorn, who hails from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Leach overcame great geographical odds to earn a shot from Marquette coach Steve Bailey, who has built his program into a top-25 power with a keen eye for finding diamonds in the rough. Leach’s only other scholarship offer came from Drake and, by the time he committed to the Golden Eagles in early August, the only other schools he was considering were Division I UW-Green Bay and Division II UW-Parkside.
Fond du Lac’s Elliott Nielsen, who had a strong end to his summer and signed a National Letter of Intent Wednesday to attend Northern Iowa, and Monona Grove’s Jacob Schroeckenthaler completed the top five behind Leach, Baranczyk and Tribus. Baranczyk was the WIAA Division 1 state runner-up to Hartland Arrowhead freshman Piercen Hunt and enjoyed top-six showings at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational (tied for sixth), the WPGA Junior Championship (third) and the Morgan Stanley WPGA Junior Tour Championship (third) among seven junior events.
This, however, is a late-developing class and the profound movement up and down the rankings is best reflected in Nos. 6 through 10 where Hartland Arrowhead’s Alex Yost, Wausau West’s Josh Yang, Madison Edgewood’s Drew Arndt, Manawa’s Ryan Schulke and Mishicot’s Austin Schnell follow in order after ranging between No. 4 (Yost) and not ranked (Arndt) a year ago.
Only six golfers in this class have made their post-high school intentions known less than 10 months before leaving the junior-golf ranks and heading off to college next fall. Of course, the other 44 who haven’t still have a lot of golf to play before those decisions have to be made.