The transfer options Joe Forsting had in front of him this past fall in plotting his next move before his time at Iowa Central Community College come to an end weren't what the Edgerton native figured they'd be when he arrived in Fort Dodge, Iowa, two years ago.
Fortunately for Forsting, he found an opportunity with an NCAA Division II program that has lost golfers to Division I programs through the merry-go-round that has been COVID-19 extended eligibility. The 2019 WIAA Division 2 state champion recently decided that he will transfer to Winona (Minn.) State and play for Warriors coach Jeff Straight starting in the fall.
"Most of the (NCAA) Division I schools in the Midwest that I contacted told me they weren’t sure yet if they even were going to have room until they for sure found out in the spring," Forsting explained in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf after becoming the first of the Wisconsin golfers recruited to ICCC by coach Kris Graewin, a Prairie du Chien native, to move onto a higher level of college golf.
"This is because of the extra years of eligibility from the pandemic allowing seniors to choose if they would like to stay an extra year or not. Due to this, it made my transfer process much harder in the same way that this year’s high school seniors may have difficulties."
Indeed, never in the sport have this many student-athletes been eligible to play college golf.
Forsting, for example, gained back his freshman year at ICCC last spring when COVID-19 canceled the spring season and the National Junior College Athletic Association announced in May it would not charge spring sports athletes a season of eligibility. Although the Tritons were able to play a fall schedule, the NJCAA announced in October that it would waive waived eligibility for athletes in all sports for the 2020-21 school year due to widespread cancellation of sports and seasons in its membership.
Therefore, Forsting technically has four years of eligibility with the Warriors, who are eligible to return all nine golfers on their 2020-21 roster under the same COVID-19 NCAA eligibility extensions identical to those in place for the NJCAA. However, they did lose Brady Madsen to Florida Gulf Coast University and Sheboygan Falls native Tyler Beeck to Charleston Southern after last spring's hiatus.
Winona State, which has not competed since winning an 11-team event it hosted in Las Vegas last March, is scheduled to resume competition with its title defense March 8. The Warriors will then play five events after that with hopes of qualifying for an NCAA Division II regional.
"For me, the process for finding a college for next year pretty much stretched out over a couple of months this past fall leading into the winter," Forsting wrote. "I was able to talk with and meet Coach Straight at Winona and I eventually found that this college was the one for me. In the end, this college was perfect for me because they have a strong golf program, a very strong academic program and a great city ... as well as the price of the college being very reasonable compared to other colleges advertising similar things."
Forsting was a four-time WIAA Division 2 sectional qualifier and two-time WIAA state qualifier. As a senior, he shot 67-41 at the weather-shortened 2019 WIAA state tournament to earn medalist honors by one stroke.
Before that, Forsting enjoyed a breakout season in 2018 on the WPGA Junior Tour, winning three one-day events — at Janesville Riverside, The Oaks Golf Course in Cottage Grove and Pleasant View Golf Course in Middleton — in addition to top-30 showings at the WPGA Junior Championship in Milwaukee and the WPGA Morgan Stanley Junior Tour Championship at Washington County Golf Course in Hartford.
"I think (and hope) I will fit in with the golf program well at Winona," wrote Forsting, who will also continue work toward a business degree, which he started at ICCC. "From what I can tell so far, they are a great group that is more like a family than a team and I hope I am able to contribute to the team during my time there. As they have been a very powerful team in recent years, I know their team is looking to continue that tradition."