Just in time for the holidays, we at Wisconsin.Golf have reason for cheer.
We feel like we just bombed a 300-yard drive down the middle of the fairway or drained a 50-foot putt to win a match.
This week, we surpassed the milestone of 1 million page views for 2020.
Coming into the year, we had reason for excitement. The long-awaited Ryder Cup, with hometown favorite Steve Stricker as U.S. captain, would be played at Whistling Straits. The AmFam Championship would be celebrating its fifth year at University Ridge. The State Am and the 100th State Open would be played at two of the state's most venerable country clubs. The talent in Wisconsin golf, young to old, was as good as ever.
But then the coronavirus pandemic hit. A million page views? More than double the number of page views of just two years ago? With the Ryder Cup canceled, the AmFam Championship canceled, the golf industry fearful for the future?
We have the wonderful game of golf and our growing legion of readers to thank.
From writers Gary D'Amato, Rob Hernandez and Dennis McCann, founder and publisher John Hughes, general manager Jim Kelsh, sales and marketing director Sarah Scott Starmer and editor Mike Davis: Thank you for playing the game, for watching the game, for talking about the game and, most of all, for reading about the game on Wisconsin.Golf.
And please, tell your playing partners about us.
Here's just some of what we teed up for our readers in 2020:
Those quirky and wonderful golf stories that make us love the game so much: The husband and wife making aces on back-to-back swings. Charlie Delsman's 13-under 60 at Mammoth Dunes (with a missed 4-footer on the 18th!). The father and son who logged 48 straight months of golf in Wisconsin ... sometimes with a cordless drill. The Ph.D. who took up the hunt at Baraboo CC to determine the most-lost brand of golf ball. Joyce Malison, at age 86, scoring her seventh career ace and in the process completing her goal of eagling all 18 holes at Rivermoor Golf Club. The Delavan woman, a newbie to golf, carding two holes-in-one in five days at Delbrook Golf Club. Our own Gary D'Amato telling how he's kept spiral-bound stats from every round of golf he's played since 1971 (crazy or just a golfer?). The group of Erin Hills caddies who swear they witnessed nothing short of a miracle, a sign from God, while playing a round with their seriously ill friend.
Golf course news: The winding road that led to the sale of The Bull. The plans for distinctive par-3 tracks at Blackwolf Run, Trappers Turn and Pioneer Pointe in Middleton. Erin Hills' complex conversion of its fairways from fescue to bentgrass. The story of a remarkable rallying cry from golfers that saved Wanaki Golf Course from bulldozers.
Golf course reviews from all corners of the state: Mascoutin, Washington County, Oshkosh Country Club, The Club at Lac La Belle, Edelweiss Chalet, Spooner, Lake Arrowhead, Turtleback and more from Gary and from Dennis. We also launched a new course directory to help golfers search for their next place to play from among Wisconsin's 400-plus layouts.
As the coronavirus pandemic cast an uncertain pall on golf early in the year, Wisconsin.Golf chronicled the impact with dozens of stories: The uncertainty surrounding the Ryder Cup and its eventual cancellation. The cancellation of the AmFam Championship and the boys high school golf season. The governor's "Safer at Home" order that shut down courses for almost all of April. The flouting of that shutdown by some courses. The last round before the shutdown, and the first round after golf's "restart." The panicked worry throughout the golf industry.
As it turned out, as Gary noted in his Thanksgiving Day column, while golf didn't provide an antidote for COVID-19 in the summer of 2020, it did provide a safe escape. Golfers flocked to the game. Rounds were up 33 percent on Milwaukee County courses, 25 percent on Waukesha County courses. As one course owner told Wisconsin.Golf, "August was by far our best August in the 31 years I’ve owned the place. ... I wanted 35 days in August.”
At the competitive levels in Wisconsin, golf was played, too, and played well. Our reporters told those stories of accomplishment: 14-year-old Aiden Cudney shooting a bogey-free 69 to punch his ticket to the 100th State Open. A pair of college players cruising to victory in the state's top two men's tournaments at two of the state's top golf courses – Chippewa Falls' Thomas Longbella of the University of Minnesota winning the State Am by 10 strokes at Milwaukee CC and Brookfield's Harrison Ott of Vanderbilt taming the blistering-fast greens at Blue Mound G&CC to win the State Open by six. High schooler Ty Kretz of Marinette shooting a pair of 64s in three days on the WPGA Junior Tour. Emily Lauterbach becoming the sixth straight Badgers golfer to win the Wisconsin State Women's Open. Hartland Arrowhead freshman Jessica Guiser winning the WIAA girls state individual championship at Blackwolf Run. We even had an inaugural "Dairyland Duel," sponsored by Wisconsin.Golf, featuring alumni golfers from Wisconsin and Marquette (the Golden Eagles claimed the trophy, an old milk jug painted blue on one half and red on the other).
At Wisconsin.Golf, we feel grateful for our loyal audience and for the opportunity to tell all of these stories of golf in Wisconsin. From the future of the game (check out Rob's annual junior golf rankings) to the legends of the game (check out Gary's "Wisconsin Legends of Golf" series), we'll continue to tell the stories of 2021.
And just think, golf gods willing, next year we'll have the Ryder Cup, with thousands of healthy, safe and cheering fans lining the fairways and packing the grandstands at Whistling Straits. And the AmFam Championship at University Ridge, too.
We can't wait!