To say that Simon Cuskey sought a college where the sky was the limit for his college golf and aviation career would be the 747 of understatements.
"I was looking for a place that I could imagine myself having the best four years of my life," the Rice Lake senior wrote in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf. "And that place was Mankato (Minn.)."
Indeed, looking to major in aviation, Cuskey decided last fall that his college experience — on and off the golf course — would best be able to take flight at Minnesota State-Mankato and he promptly signed his National Letter of Intent to play for coach Bryant Black. Cuskey said he chose the NCAA Division II Mavericks over interest from NAIA Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Cuskey, who is ranked 12th in the Wisconsin.Golf boys Class of 2020 state rankings, was the WIAA Division 2 state runner-up in 2019 when he shot 72-37 in the weather-shortened, 27-hole state tournament at University Ridge. He finished one shot behind state champion Joe Forsting of Edgerton (67-41).
Following the state tournament, Cuskey enjoyed a consistent summer in WPGA Junior points events.
He finished in the top 25 at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational and the Wisconsin PGA Junior Championship before turning in his best showing of the summer at the WPGA Players Tour event at Blackwolf Run GC in Kohler where he shot 76-80 and placed ninth. He closed out the summer with a 17th-place showing at the WSGA Junior Boys Championship.
"Many schools reached out to me, but I want to become a pilot, so it is hard to find solid golf programs built in with an aviation degree," Cuskey wrote. "Minnesota State is the right choice for me because it is not too far from home, has the degree I want to pursue and they have a good golf team.
"Eventually, coach (Black) and I set up a time where we could meet. When we first met ... I could tell he was a cool guy. He showed us around the school and talked about how the golf season goes and how they schedule their time. He mentioned that they have a very close team and they do a lot of things together.
"Also, he said every time that the team golfs, they are competing for something, big or small, which I really like so I stay focused."
The Mavericks graduated two golfers off their 2019 team that finished fourth at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship. Their 2019-20 team showed glimpses of great promise — twice shooting 280 last fall — but also great inconsistency, following up both 280s with rounds north of 300.
MSU-Mankato was scheduled to graduate four golfers off its roster this spring before the season was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. How that shakes out remains to be seen, but Cuskey is confident he can make a quick impact.
"I see myself coming in and contributing to a positive environment and putting up some solid scores," Cuskey wrote. "I don't see myself coming in and being the No. 1 guy right away, but I want to be a guy that coach can rely on to shoot consistently solid numbers. They always are in the running for the conference title and have won it several times (most recently in 2018). They have made it to (NCAA Division II) regionals on numerous occasions and I hope I can help them keep that trend."