Since the day he played his way into the varsity lineup at Hartland Arrowhead as a freshman three years ago, Nick Amtmann has developed a pretty good appreciation for what it means to play for a powerhouse golf program.
Once he determined that he wanted to pursue a college golf career, the Warhawks senior set his sights high — and squarely on UW-Eau Claire, a program that reached No. 10 in the GolfStat/NCAA Division III national rankings last fall only to have COVID-19 shutter college golf in March. The Blugolds were in line for an at-large NCAA Division III Championship berth.
"COVID-19 did not have a huge impact in my recruiting process because I was favoring Eau Claire before the pandemic," Amtmann wrote in an email interview with Wisconsin.Golf. "Eau Claire was the right choice for me because it is a great school, has a nice campus, and the team was very easy to get along with. And (it) is very competitive in (Division III) golf."
Too competitive? Not for Amtmann, who is ranked No. 9 in the Wisconsin.Golf boys Class of 2021 rankings updated last month.
He cut his teeth as a freshman at Arrowhead playing the No. 5 position behind two-time WIAA Division 1 state champion Piercen Hunt (now at Illinois), senior stalwarts Alex Yost and Zachary Reiser and junior Matthew Raab (now at St. Thomas, Minn.). He moved up to No. 3 in the lineup as a sophomore before COVID-19 wiped out his junior season, but not his zest for aiming high.
"The Arrowhead golf program is a highly competitive culture so this will help me with the transition to college golf," Amtmann wrote. "I see myself fitting in well with the team and working hard to elevate the program."
Indeed, Amtmann will join New Richmond's Owen Covey as the start of a 2021 recruiting class that will need to be patient and flexible as Blugolds coach Darrin Skinner juggles his roster amid college golf's COVID-19 eligibility era.
Eau Claire brought back two seniors this season (Alex Rogan and Brady Thomas) for a fifth year on extended COVID-19 eligibility. The Blugolds have three other golfers in the position to take up to two years of COVID-19 eligibility or departing in May.
So where does that leave Amtmann? It depends on how he is able to build off of a summer that was far more impressive at the end than it was at the beginning.
After struggling to a T39 finish at a WPGA Players Tour event at Blackwolf Run in Kohler and a T73 at the Wisconsin PGA Junior Championship, Amtmann went the extra mile and won a WPGA Junior Tour event at Timber Ridge Golf Club in Minocqua. He finished a respectable T26 at the Wisconsin State Golf Association Junior Boys Championship and then won the prestigious Lake Arrowhead Invitational, shooting 68 on the Pines Course and 74 on the Lakes.
Not knowing what his senior season at Arrowhead will hold, it was hard for Amtmann to walk away from competitive golf after that.
"I wanted to be able to have a good balance between golf and school and I believe that Eau Claire gives me that balance," wrote Amtmann, who plans to major in business. "One of the reasons I wanted to play golf in college was to help further develop my leadership skills in a highly competitive level. I visited the campus once and thought that it was a great fit for me.
"Also, I played a round at the team's home course with the team and got along with the guys very well. Coach Skinner would always check in with me and let me ask any questions that I had about the golf program. That made it very comfortable talking with him."
In the end, the only person left to convince that college golf was right for him? Amtmann himself.
"Through the recruiting process, I was contemplating whether or not I was going to play college golf," Amtmann wrote. "In the end, I decided that it would be a great experience that I'd only have once in my lifetime."