By his own admission, Kyle Bengtson was so late to the recruiting process that he almost missed it.
"We started just this August, when most start the recruiting process after their sophomore year," Bengtson, a senior at WIAA Division 2 powerhouse Lakeland High School in Minocqua, wrote in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf.
"I only went to visit one other college before visiting UW-Green Bay. So our hopes were (focused on) just finding a school with a golf program that I could play in. We weren't really thinking I would be able to go (NCAA) Division I."
As it turned out, Bengtson and the Phoenix were a perfect fit for each other. He chose UWGB after exploring options at Division I North Dakota State and Division III UW-Stout. The three-time WIAA Division 2 state qualifier signed his National Letter of Intent in November to play for coach Lee Reinke and recently described how quickly things came together that led to the decision to play for the Phoenix.
Bengtson credited family friend Tom Dolby, the former general manager and head professional at Timber Ridge Golf Club in Minocqua, for reaching out to Lakeland coach Scott Howard with word of Reinke's interest. Dolby recently left Mascoutin Golf Club in Berlin for Pine Grove Country Club in Iron Mountain, Mich.
"I was looking for a place with a good atmosphere, somewhere where it seemed the kids were happy, talkative, outgoing," wrote Bengtson, who looks to major in Environmental Policy and Planning with an eye toward landscape architecture and becoming a golf course designer.
"Where the professors actually taught their classes instead of their TA's. I was impressed how everyone came up to introduce themselves and how the kids went around the school, like their body language," he wrote. "I loved the fact that you could get around from class to class in tunnels, and everything is connected once you get in the (student) union. We took a visit and talked with Coach Reinke, got to visit with the guys on the team ... and we liked what the school had to offer along with its atmosphere. It just felt right (and) then the ultimate kicker was when Coach Reinke offered me the scholarship.
"It took myself and my parents completely by surprise and immediately boosted UWGB to one of the top contenders."
Of course, the Phoenix probably liked what they saw in Bengtson as much as what he saw in the school and its golf program.
UW-Green Bay is getting a golfer who has finished in the top five at the WIAA Division 2 state tournament the last two years. He tied for third in 2018 and placed fifth in 2019 after tying for 14th in 2017. His team finished third in 2018 and was the state runner-up in 2019 to Madison Edgewood, which won its third straight title.
Last summer, he quietly finished fourth in the Wisconsin PGA Junior Tour points standings behind fellow Class of 2020 golfers Drake Wilcox of Sheboygan (Queens University-N.C.), Piercen Hunt of Hartland (Illinois) and Cameron Huss of Kenosha (Wisconsin). He finished ahead of Wisconsin-bound Jacob Beckman, a Class of 2021 golfer from Middleton, and future UWGB teammate Zak Kulka of Beaver Dam.
Bengtson's signature victory came at the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin College Showcase on the Irish Course at Whistling Straits in Haven where he shot 74-72 and won by two shots over Mequon's Joshua Teplin. He also turned in top-six finishes at the Wisconsin State Golf Association Junior Boys Championship, the Dells Junior Golf Championship and a pair of WPGA Players Tour events.
"Kyle is an athlete that plays varsity soccer and hockey in addition to golf," Reinke said. "He loves to compete. That competitiveness, a ton of raw talent, and the ability to focus on one sport has me looking forward to getting Kyle to GB."
And Bengtson can't wait to get there.
"Obviously, it’s a different feel/experience playing college golf versus high school golf," wrote Bengtson, the only member of Reinke's Class of 2020 recruiting class. "But (I) look forward to the opportunity."