Ethan Churchill might not be the most recognizable name on the Wisconsin boys golf scene.
He played No. 4 last spring on the Sun Prairie golf team. His Cardinals made it to the WIAA Division 1 Janesville Parker sectional, but fell short in their bid for the program's first state appearance since 2010 and second since 1995.
But the Sun Prairie senior's recent commitment to the men's golf program on the rise at Madison College is a timely reminder — many high school seniors around the state are making college decisions this month and next — that one doesn't have to have a deep resume to play at the next level, just a deep passion for the game and a proven commitment to want to get better.
"The goal my golf career starting in high school was to play collegiate golf one day," Churchill wrote in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf. "But entering my senior year I had not been highly recruited and the schools that I was recruited (by) I didn't feel were the best option for me. So I my plan was to go to college for strictly academics and not to play golf."
That's when Madison College came calling. Looking to grow its program under first-year head coach Glenn Eichstedt and his son Adam, who is the WolfPack's assistant coach and an assistant in the athletic communications department, reached out to Churchill and made him part of what is a solid incoming freshman class featuring A.J. Gray of Milton and Matt Hach of New Glarus.
"The school is close to my home, is affordable, and provides the academic qualities of a great institution," wrote Churchill, whose visit to campus was led by the two golf coaches. "I had a great first impression of them, it was something I hadn't felt with the other schools that had recruited me. As I walked around the building, I saw all of the cool opportunities that students had within the school and how unique of an atmosphere it feels like. For me I felt at home and welcomed, the whole visit I knew that the coaches wanted what's best for me.
"As we got near the end of the visit, we talked more about the golf experience that I was going to have, what's unique to Madison college is you get to play right away, where other colleges you have to wait until later in your college career to even get the opportunity. It has everything you would expect from a four-year (school) in a two-year (school), and even more."
Churchill, who plans to major in business, tied for 22nd at the Big Eight Conference Championship last spring with a round of 87 at Evansville GC. He then tied for 12th at the WIAA Division 1 DeForest regional with an 85, helping Sun Prairie finish second and advance to sectionals where he struggled to a 98 as the Cardinals placed seventh.
"As a golfer I see myself fitting into the program with my skills, and my attitude," Churchill wrote. "I see myself growing as a person and a golfer. As both coaches have already told me, character is a huge aspect in growing as an individual outside of the classroom. I know both coaches will help my golf game as well, as I feel as a player they can take me to the next level.
"As the current team is going to nationals, I see the other players who have committed to Madison College with me and I expect and hope to be back there next year. As we have new coaches my plan is to help the team start a new tradition, a successful one."