Brock Hlinak has been distinguishing himself on the Wisconsin junior golf scene for the last three years, but the Kaukauna golfer distinguished himself this year among Wisconsin boys in the Class of 2019 — and, for the third year in a row, earned the No. 1 ranking in his class in the Wisconsin.Golf update — by what he did in the state’s two top events for golfers of all ages.
At the Wisconsin State Amateur Championship, Hlinak shot 68-72-70-72 at Minocqua Country Club and placed third, three shots out of the playoff Vanderbilt golfer Harrison Ott of Brookfield won in an epic, eight-hole playoff over University of Minnesota golfer Thomas Longbella of Chippewa Falls. At the Wisconsin State Open Championship, Hlinak shot 72-69-72-80 at North Shore Golf Club in Menasha, getting within eight shots of the lead after 54 holes before tying for 49th, 20 shots behind former University of Wisconsin golfer Dan Woltman, who won his third State Open title.
Hlinak and Hartland Arrowhead’s Piercen Hunt, a junior who recently gave his oral commitment to NCAA Division I power Illinois, were the only two high school golfers to make the 36-hole cut in both events. Hlinak finished two shots ahead of Hunt at the State Am and one shot ahead of the No. 1 golfer in the Wisconsin.Golf update of the Class of 2020 rankings at the State Open.
For what it’s worth, only two golfers currently on a Division I roster in Wisconsin finished ahead of Hlinak in either event — Marquette’s Hunter Eichhorn and UW-Green Bay’s Ben Gilles, both at the State Open and only after Hlinak beat both of them at the State Amateur a month earlier.
It’s worth a lot in my book because, in my 30 years covering junior golf in Wisconsin, I’m hard-pressed to recall someone as accomplished as Hlinak as overlooked in the recruiting process. He was offered early by UW-Green Bay, late by Marquette and not at all by Wisconsin — instead signing his National Letter of Intent recently to attend Division II Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.). With Hunt off to Illinois in 2020, the Wisconsin’s golf community has to wonder if and when another home-grown talent will receive offers from all three in-state Division I schools.
Wisconsin.Golf’s updated rankings for this year’s senior class reflect the ends of the earth that today’s collegiate hopefuls must go to continue their golf careers. Following a Class of 2018 in which Wisconsin golfers went as far away as DeLand, Florida and Fargo, North Dakota, the Class of 2019 might take it to another level when it comes to frequent-flier miles.
Besides the North Carolina-bound Hlinak, two other signed golfers in the Wisconsin.Golf top five are also headed to the East Coast. No. 2 Jack Blair of Milwaukee Marquette — the co-No. 1 in this class with Hlinak a year ago — will attend Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, while No. 5 Blake Wisdom of Lake Geneva Badger will play at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, No. 4 Drew Sagrillo, a Milwaukee Marquette golfer from Pewaukee, will attend Dominican University in San Rafael, California, north of San Francisco and No. 9 Lukas Heckmann, a Lakeside Lutheran golfer from Middleton, will attend the University of New Orleans. With 10 golfers in the top 20 still uncommitted or their choices unannounced, there is no telling how many more dots on the map this class will leave and where they will appear.
Of course, heading into their final spring of high school golf, the only destination they are worried about is trying to catch Hlinak at No. 1. But he’s not going to make that easy.
In seven WPGA Junior points events against golfers his age this year, Hlinak finished sixth or better in five of them. After tying for third at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament, he tied for sixth at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational, placed 16th at the WPGA Junior Championship (five strokes out of second place and three shots out of the top five), second at the WPGA Morgan Stanley Junior Tour Championship and fifth at the WSGA Junior Boys Championship.
But 2018 will go down as a year for the ages for Hlinak, who made 17 seem so venerable.