Lee Reinke would like to think he has become smarter during his six seasons as golf coach at UW-Green Bay, just by driving his teams to their tournaments.
"When we're on the road, it's remarkable," Reinke said. "I told my wife I have learned more in the last six years than I may have in college."
But then he jokes that, if that is the indeed case, it is strictly via osmosis.
After all, at least one of his two rolling study halls is transporting one of the collectively most brilliant NCAA Division I women's golf programs in all the land. We know this because the Women's Golf Coaches Association recently released its annual team grade-point rankings and the Phoenix came in at No. 2 for the 2019-20 season — COVID-19 be darned — with a 3.958 team GPA.
Only the University of New Mexico (3.965) ranked ahead of UWGB in Division I. Among NCAA Division III programs, UW-Stout was 15th (3.696), UW-Eau Claire was 19th (3.660) and Lakeland University of Sheboygan was 21st while St. Olaf (Minn.) — coached by Beloit native and former University of Wisconsin golfer Katie (Connelly) Luckraft — earned the No. 11 ranking (3.749).
Wisconsin golfers compete on two other Division I teams that made the top 25: No. 7 Creighton (Hayward's Gabby Tremblay) and No. 8 Drake (South Milwaukee's Aimee Gerschke and Eau Claire's Lexi Meade). The state was represented in the Division II top 25 on No. 16 Concordia-St. Paul (Rice Lake's Katelyn Baribeau, Menomonee Falls' Isabella Dory and Ellsworth's Kacie Lansing) and on seven other Division III teams among the top 25, including No. 9 Grinnell-Iowa (Waterford's Aubrie Torhorst).
At Green Bay, Reinke admired his team's GPA given how much time is spent away from campus competing and the academic rigor that is reflected in the majors of the eight women on the roster.
"We have a small roster, ... so a lot of them are traveling every week," said Reinke, who also coaches the UWGB men's team. "It's Saturday travel, Sunday-Monday-Tuesday at the tournament and then we get back late Tuesday night, early Wednesday morning sometimes at midnight or 2 o'clock in the morning. And then it's a quick, three-day turnaround where they have to do laundry, study, do homework, qualify, practice, have some social time. All of those factors added in, a 3.958 is just phenomenal.
"In addition to that, they don't take 'How To Cut Lawn In A Straight Line' classes. Four human bio(logy) majors. Three business majors. And, not to be outdone, a mechanical engineering and math double-major for Ashley (Kulka). So it's quite a feat with all of those majors as well."
When word of his team's academic prowess started making the rounds among Reinke's circle of friends, he got an earful from some of his, um, friends.
"Some of my friends gave me grief, like 'boy, you're not going to their classes, thank goodness,'" Reinke said. "No, but at the same time I take a lot of pride in the caliber of player I recruit. I always look for a high-character, high-integrity individual – both men and women – as well as from a good family and a good student who can play golf. I always put the golf at the end."
In our Wisconsin.Golf Conversation, Reinke talks more about the academic prowess of both his women's and men's teams. He also looks ahead to the 2020-21 school year that will not begin, in the Horizon League, until October at the earliest.