Jack Blair of Wauwatosa did a lot in 2017 to deserve the No. 1 ranking among Wisconsin boys golfers in the Class of 2019; Brock Hlinak of Kaukauna did nothing over the last 12 months to suggest he did not.
Blair, a part of Milwaukee Marquette’s state runner-up team, was the most consistent of the two. In the seven WPGA Junior Tour points events he played, Blair fared better than his Kaukauna rival in five of them. But Hlinak, who continued to demonstrate the best ability to go low of any golfer in his class, had lower scores than Blair at least one round in five of their showdowns as well.
They will go into the spring season as juniors sharing the top spot in the Wisconsin.Golf updated rankings for their class. They edged No. 3 Lukas Heckmann, a Middleton resident who attends Lakeside Lutheran and won the WPGA Junior Championship by two shots over Piercen Hunt of Hartland (the overwhelming choice for Wisconsin.Golf’s No. 1 ranking in the Class of 2020).
The Class of 2019, which has 54 golfers among the top 200 in the 2017 WPGA Junior points standings, is the deepest Wisconsin boys classes to emerge this early since the Class of 2014 had 58 golfers in the top 200 in the 2012 WPGA Junior standings. That year, Wisconsin turned out a distinguished list of future collegians such as Eddie Wajda III (Wisconsin), Trevor Thomas, Austin Kendziorski and Garrett Loomis (Marquette) and Phillip Johnson (Dayton) among others.
Blair didn’t win any tournaments this summer. His best finish was a tie for second at the season-ending Morgan Stanley Junior Tour Championship, three shots behind Hlinak.
However, his work in his two WSGA starts best illustrated what made Blair so consistent. In the 116th Wisconsin State Amateur, Blair shot 73-73-74-72 and tied for 34th. At the WSGA Junior Boys Championship, Blair shot 72-73-74 and tied for fifth, 10 shots behind Hunter Eichhorn.
Coincidentally, Hlinak showed why he is the most explosive golfer among this year’s juniors in those same events. He was three shots off the lead after an opening 69 at the Wisconsin State Amateur (and eventually tied for 44th after closing 74-75-79) and he held a three-stroke lead after an opening 65 at the WSGA Junior Boys Championship only to finish 76-81 and tie for ninth.
After a slow start to his summer -- tying for 17th at the WIAA state tournament and tying for 24th at both the Lake Arrowhead Invitational and WPGA Junior Championship, Hlinak turned it on. He posted top 10 finishes in five of his last six junior events and won four of them, including the 2017 College Showcase with rounds of 73 and 74 on the Irish Course at Whistling Straits and the Morgan Stanley Tour Championship with rounds of 68 and 75 at The Bog GC in Saukville.
Lakeside Lutheran’s Heckmann, who shot a pair of 69s in winning the WPGA Junior at Brown Deer Park and Dretzka Park in Milwaukee, jumped from No. 14 last year to No. 3 this year. He was one stroke off the lead after an opening-round 73 at the WIAA Division 2 state tournament, closed with a 77 and finished tied for fifth. He also posted top-10 finishes at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational (tied for 10th) and the WSGA State Junior Boys (eighth) in addition to winning a WPGA Junior event at Beaver Dam CC where he made eight birdies in a 5-under 66.
Kaukauna’s Tyler Cleaves and Brookfield Central’s Jack Anderson rounded out the top five, holding down the Nos. 4 and 5 spots, respectively, for the second year in a row. Matthew Raab of Hartland Arrowhead, ranked No. 10 a year ago, jumped to No. 6 and led the second five, followed by Waunakee’s Sean Murphy (No. 7), Milwaukee Marquette’s Drew Sagrillo (No. 8), Beaver Dam’s Zak Kulka (No. 9) and Fond du Lac Springs Doyle Kelly (No. 10).
This might have been the toughest class to rank since Wisconsin.Golf launched in January of 2016. Many golfers in this class played less this past summer than they had in previous years yet many made the most of the golf they did play and, in certain tournaments, out-performed golfers who were ranked ahead of them based comparatively on their overall bodies of work.
Perhaps the best example was No. 33 Jack Rollins of Madison Abundant Life/Country Day, whose shining moment came in the final round at the WIAA Division 3 state tournament. After shooting 85 in the opening round at University Ridge, he shot a 2-under 70 for one of only three sub-par rounds on the final day -- Division 1 champion Piercen Hunt of Hartland Arrowhead shot 69 and Division 2 champion Hunter Pipik of New Berlin Eisenhower shot 67) -- and tied for fifth.
There were similar stories throughout the top 40. That’s why the progress of this class will be entertaining to watch over their final two seasons of high school and summer golf.