Like the grip on my circa-1980s Arnold Palmer putter, the wear and tear on one of sports' most worn adages suggests it might be ripe for replacement.
But not quite yet. It fits too perfectly the narrative of a prominent Wisconsin junior golfer whose recent rise from the proverbial ashes of disappointment served up a timely reminder that losing doesn't build character; it reveals it.
Here's what losing revealed last month about Piercen Hunt: The rising senior at Hartland Arrowhead will never be defined solely by his work in the WIAA state boys golf tournament. There are too many other tournaments to win.
That was the statement Hunt made after his quest to become the first golfer to win the WIAA Division 1 state tournament each of his first three years in high school ended with a 71-76 effort that was no match for Merrill's Russell Dettmering. The Bluejays junior shot 71-66 and grabbed medalist honors by six shots over two golfers while Hunt watched the awards ceremony from the other end of the medalist line after finishing in a tie for sixth, 10 shots back.
When I caught up with Hunt the following week on a remote tee box in central Wisconsin, I wondered if I'd see any residue from his unprecedented setback at University Ridge. A long face. A dour look. A prolonged sense of mourning.
Try none of the above.
It didn't take his best golf to produce rounds of 72 (Pines) and 74 (Lakes) and earn his way into a four-way playoff at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational near Nekoosa. But he uncorked some of his best stuff to win it, birdieing the first extra hole to eliminate friends Cameron Huss of Kenosha, Joshua Teplin of Mequon and Drew Sagrillo of Pewaukee as thunder rumbled in the distance.
We should have recognized that as a warning that Hunt was back (of course, it wasn't like the Illinois commit was ever gone in the span of seven days).
One week after his bounce-back victory at Lake Arrowhead, which earned him a berth in the upcoming National PGA Junior Championship later this month, Hunt added yet another victory to his resume and this one was major. He fired rounds of 69-67-72-70 and won the Western Junior Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois — and by a seven-stroke margin.
It is the first time a Wisconsin golfer has won that event since former UW golfer Craig Darlington won in 1989. The Western Junior is one of those rich-in-history events that has launched many a rising star to prominence on the PGA Tour, but — for now — Piercen Hunt is happy being Piercen Hunt.
In fact, he might never have been happier than he was this past weekend when he partnered with the American Junior Golf Association to stage the Wisconsin Cup, a Ryder Cup-style event played at Whistling Straits in Haven that served as a fundraiser for the MACC Fund. It not only raised money for a good cause, but it celebrated the friendships that Hunt has made with so many of his peers in the junior golf community.
Hunt and 19 other prominent Wisconsin junior golfers teamed up to raise $25,000 and will continue those efforts through Dec. 1. Each player in the event has a fundraising website similar to this one for the tournament host.
And, once again, Hunt made it clear who is No. 1 in Wisconsin junior golf — not only in the boys Class of 2020 in Wisconsin.Golf's first-ever midseason rankings update — but, this time, in his own event. He knocked off former Arrowhead teammate Matthew Raab on the first hole of a sudden death playoff after the Team MACC Fund and Team WPGA Junior Foundation halved the 15 matches played in the two-day gathering along Lake Michigan.
Still, Hunt's impact on junior golf stretches far beyond the results.
In June alone, he showed us how how to be as gracious and humble in victory as he was at the start of the month in defeat. He reminded us there are too many opportunities to reveal one's character in junior golf these days and — in that spirit — we reveal our rankings updates knowing that the character revealed the rest of the summer will be reflected in our annual update this fall.
In the meantime, here are a few observations about each class coming out of the spring high school season one month into the summer schedule:
Class of 2019: The biggest change, of course, is that this class now features a University of Wisconsin recruit in Jack Blair, the Milwaukee Marquette grad whose hopes of attending Brown University fell through before he was scooped up in recruiting's 11th hour by the Badgers. ... Kaukauna's Brock Hlinak continues to lead the way after a solid spring season that followed his epic summer of 2018 highlighted by his third-place finish at the 117th Wisconsin State Amateur in Minocqua. It'll be worth watching next week at the 118th State Am at The Links Course at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia in Green Lake whether high schoolers can make the same impact on this year's leaderboard that they did a year ago. ... Keep an eye on the rising stars of WIAA Division 2 state champion Joe Forsting and his Edgerton teammate Kyle Wille, both headed to Iowa Central Community College with the hopes of using the stop as a springboard to an NCAA Division I opportunity. Their work so far in 2019 suggests they're headed in the right direction.
Class of 2020: We reluctantly moved Russell Dettmering ahead of the pack behind Hunt on the strength of a WIAA Division 1 state championship showing that came within a shot of equalling a tournament record shared by former Mequon Homestead golfers Andy Hansen and Jordan Niebrugge. Since ending Hunt's reign, Dettmering has had his ups-and-downs in his first extensive taste of Wisconsin PGA Junior competition. But that's why he took heed of others' suggestions and expanded his schedule. ... But the talent around him is still notable. Jack Lutze of Milwaukee Marquette is ever-present near the top of leaderboards, Kenosha Tremper's Cameron Huss has proven worthy of his scholarship offer from the Badgers and Sheboygan Lutheran's Drake Wilcox continues to make it difficult for college coaches to overlook a guy whose consistency in big tournaments speaks volumes. ... Meanwhile, the depth of this class is becoming exceptional. For example, No. 6-ranked Jamozzy Skenadore of West De Pere has not only played well in junior golf majors this summer, but he has been tabbed via the First Tee of Northeast Wisconsin to play in the PURE Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach (California) in September in a PGA Tour Champions event that matches First Tee participants with amateurs and senior professionals.
Class of 2021: Besides Hunt, it's hard to imagine a golfer having a better summer than Middleton's Jacob Beckman. After a 12th-place showing at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, Beckman played well at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational (78-74) and then won the overall title at the WPGA Junior Championship out of the 13-to-15 age division with a 71 at Brown Deer Park and a 72 at Dretzka. Just last week, Beckman won the Wisconsin-only local qualifier for the upcoming AJGA event in the Milwaukee area with a 74. That said, the jockeying for position behind Beckman could prove interesting among a class that features a unique diversity when it comes to athleticism.
Class of 2022: Still four-plus months from teeing it up in high school when we did our inaugural rankings of this year's freshman class in November, several golfers had an immediate impact on their teams this spring. Hayden LeMonds' work as the No. 4 golfer at Milwaukee Marquette, however, clearly stood out. His 76 was the fourth counting score in the Hilltoppers' 290 that won their own sectional and his 1-under showing over the final three holes on the final day of the state tournament helped him rally for a 77 that was the fourth counting score in a final-round 298, which helped Marquette set the Division 1 state scoring record for 36 holes with its 18-over 594 total.