Lee Reinke. Mike Small. Dennis Tiziani. Casey VanDamme.

The former wanted Ty Kretz to come to UW-Green Bay. The latter convinced the Marinette senior to come to South Dakota State. The other two coaching icons — one the current and uber-successful coach at Illinois, the other the former coach at the University of Wisconsin — were kind enough to offer advice when asked.

Suffice it to say Kretz went right to the 11th hour and left no stone unturned in doing his homework, weighing his options and finding what he deemed to be the right place to play his college golf. Ultimately, his desire to set off on his own, a little further away from his home in far northeast Wisconsin, convinced him to choose South Dakota State over UW-Green Bay.

"It seemed like a little better fit for me; it's a slightly bigger college and I sort of want that kind of college experience," Kretz said in a telephone interview. "I don't know if I'd be coming home all the time (from UW-Green Bay), but just to feel (being) away from home, too, and go out on my own."

It won't be the first time Kretz has ventured a ways away from home.

Kretz, who shared the No. 1 spot in the latest Wisconsin.Golf boys Class of 2021 state rankings with University of Wisconsin-bound Jacob Beckman of Middleton, spent two months this past winter competing in Florida on the Hurricane Junior Golf Tour in hopes of attracting more college attention. He did turn heads, winning the Palm Beach Junior Open in late January in his first competitive golf since having ankle surgery in the fall and finishing in the top three in four of the five events he entered (and seventh in the other) with a 73.45 stroke average.

His family has a winter home at River Hall Country Club in Alva, near Fort Myers, where Kretz played and practice daily. His father, Pete, who owns Little River Country Club in Marinette and played for Tiziani at UW, also arranged for his son to work with Mike Adams, a noted Florida teaching professional, to hone his skills ahead of his senior season this spring at Marinette.

Ty Kretz at '20 state am

Ty Kretz of Marinette tracks this tee shot during the 2020 Wisconsin State Am played at Milwaukee CC.

"I worked really hard in Florida to better the weaker parts of my game," Kretz said. "I showed I can play against some tough competition down there. ... I showed I can go and play (well) on different courses down there, especially with the different grass. My game adjusts pretty well to everywhere." 

However, Kretz — like many golfing hopefuls in his class — found more doors closed than open among NCAA Division I programs. That continues to be a reflection of the uncertainty facing many coaches trying to manage their rosters in an unprecedented era of extra eligibility granted by the NCAA in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and more and more current college golfers finding new homes via the NCAA's transfer portal.

"It was very difficult," Kretz said of the recruiting process and the limited options it afforded him. "I know a lot of (college) seniors came back so it limited the scholarships that the colleges could give up. Personally, it was very frustrating because I thought I'd get a couple more looks than I actually did. But I'm happy with what I have now and I appreciate everyone who reached out to me."

Indeed, Reinke and VanDamme, a native of the Upper Peninsula whose school hosts a tournament at Sage Run GC in Harris, Mich., remained the most loyal to Kretz throughout the process and made it difficult to say no to either.

Kretz figured to be the cornerstone of a Green Bay program that has just seven golfers on its 2020-21 roster and will graduate senior Ben Gilles after this week's Horizon League Championship. The Phoenix go into the final round eighth in the nine-team field.

At South Dakota State, the Jackrabbits are poised to return all 10 golfers from this year's team, which will look to chase down reigning champion Denver University at this week's Summit League Championship after finishing second to the Pioneers in 2019. Seven of the nine golfers who have seen action during the 2020-21 season are averaging 76.44 or better, meaning Kretz will have his hands full trying to muscle his way into the five-player lineup as a freshman.

"I am going to have to play my best to make the starting five there," Kretz said. "Everybody has to earn their spot on the team and I think I can do that. ... I like the hardest challenge I can get. I have to prove myself and work harder instead of, not handed to me, but have an easier route."

Boys Class of 2021

College selections on this list are updated regularly. To share updates on the decisions of high school seniors, email Rob Hernandez at rob@killarneygolfmedia.com

No. First name Last name High school College Nov.
1, Jacob Beckman Middleton Wisconsin 1 1 1 NR
tie, Ty Kretz Marinette South Dakota State 2 2 3 5
3, Bennett Swavely Hudson Minnesota 3 8 9 NR
4, Benjamin Pausha Kettle Moraine Minnesota (acadmeics) 7 2 2 11
5, Owen Covey New Richmond UW-Eau Claire 13 10 NR NR
6, Austin Georger Appleton West Wittenberg (Ohio) 11 14 25 NR
7, Christian Staudt Mequon Homestead 5 4 5 3
8, Connor Nelson Waukesha West UW-Stout 14 NR NR NR
9, Nick Amtmann Hartland Arrowhead UW-Eau Claire 6 9 7 NR
10, Silas Pickhardt Madison Memorial Northern Michigan 26 NR NR NR
11, Ty Mueller Mequon Homestead TBA (academics) 4 17 6 NR
12, Matthew Mueller St. Croix Central UW-Stout NR NR NR NR
13, Braeden Resnick Rice Lake Stetson (Fla.) 12 NR NR NR
14, Logan Pechinski Stevens Point Davenport (Mich.) 27 20 13 4
15, Collin Thomey Germantown Bryant & Stratton NR NR 15 NR
16, Addison Raimer Slinger 9 7 12 2
17, Nathan Theama Cedarburg NR NR NR NR
18, Luke Abram Lake Geneva Badger TBA (academics) 16 23 20 13
19, Matt Paulson Mukwonago Madison College 15 NR NR NR
20, Sam Evenson Holmen Iowa Central CC 124 12 21 NR
21, Hunter Neumann Tomah UW-Stout NR NR NR NR
22, Liam Sather Eau Claire Memorial NR NR NR NR
23, Jackson Cain Kettle Moraine Minnesota (academics) 8 6 NR NR
24, Nicholas Higley Eleva-Strum TBA (academics) 31 19 10 NR
25, Adam Bauman Peshtigo 34 NR NR NR
26, Jacob Hall Osceola Bethel (Minn.) NR NR NR NR
27, John Mirsberger Franklin Wisconsin (academics) 18 13 11 6
28, Will Buettner Milwaukee Marquette Villanova (academics) 22 NR NR NR
29, Ben Busick De Pere Madison College 20 24 23 NR
30, Teddy Schumacher Fond du Lac Springs St. Norbert 37, NR NR NR
31, Kaleb Lycke La Crosse Logan Madison College NR NR NR NR
32, Jack Tonnessen Germantown Lewis University (Ill.) 19 NR NR NR
33, Maxamillian Xiong River Falls 10 5 4 1
34, Adam Soczka Wauwatosa East/West Augustana (Ill.) NR NR NR NR
35, Elijah Bartel Waupaca UW-Stevens Point (academics) 17 11 NR NR
36, Ian Resch Wittenberg-Birnamwood Madison College NR NR NR NR
37, Dawson Kurth Durand UW-Eau Claire 30 18 19 NR
38, Charlie Schubbe Appleton Xavier 21 25 17 7
39, Jack Catherall Milwaukee Marquette 40 NR NR NR
40, Jake Rebholz Verona NR NR NR NR
41, Andrew Aune Verona NR NR NR NR
42, Ethan Draeger Kettle Moraine Lutheran UW-Stout NR NR NR NR
43, Declan Cooley Milwaukee Marquette 40, NR NR NR
44, Tyler Dahl Kenosha Tremper 36, NR NR NR
45, Tyler Fisel Kenosha Indian Trail NR NR NR NR
46, Brayden LoPiccolo Racine Case 29, 22 16 NR
47, Tyson Miller Slinger NR NR NR NR
48, Peter Iwanowski St. Francis/Cudahy 25, NR NR NR
49, Jake Anderson Whitefish Bay NR NR NR NR
50, Andrew Fickel Hartland Arrowhead 39, NR NR NR

More from this Section