There is nothing wrong with looking up to Piercen Hunt. But after seemingly spending most of his life in pursuit of the Hartland golfer, Sheboygan's Drake Wilcox now has a view from atop all Wisconsin junior boys golfers after determinedly fighting past Hunt to reach the peak.
WPGA junior boys players of the year
|2019||Drake Wilcox, Sheboygan|
|2018||Piercen Hunt, Hartland|
|2017||Hunter Eichhorn, Carney, Mich.|
|2016||Hunter Eichhorn, Carney, Mich.|
|2015||Adam Miller, Lodi|
|2014||Kaylor Steger, Sturtevant|
|2013||Charlie Maleki, Mequon|
|2012||Trevor Thomas, Junction City|
|2011||Jack McKinney, Big Bend|
|2010||Ben Skogen, Onalaska|
|2009||David Christian, Oconomowoc|
|2008||Sam Frank, Oconomowoc|
|2007||Matt Haase, Medford|
|2006||Anthony Aicher, Wausau|
|2005||Dustin Schwab, Waunakee|
|2004||Craig Cerbins, Portage|
|2003||Dan Woltman, Beaver Dam|
|2002||Michael Bielawski, West Allis|
|2001||Nate Colson, Plymouth|
|2000||Nate Colson, Plymouth|
|1999||Brian Brodell, Appleton|
|1998||P.J. Noelke, Racine|
|1997||Mike Everson, Muskego|
|1996||Nick Gilliam, Green Bay|
|1995||Nick Gilliam, Green Bay|
|1994||John Gaschke, Milwaukee|
|1993||Aaron Dobberstein, Lake Geneva|
|1992||Mark Wilson, Menomonee Falls|
|1991||Mark Wilson, Menomonee Falls|
|1990||Blake Butzin, Waukesha|
|1989||Jason Fitchett, Green Bay|
|1988||Jason Fitchett, Green Bay|
|Casey Brozek, De Pere|
|1987||Bill Heim, New Franken|
|1986||Bill Heim, New Franken|
|1985||Steve Stricker, Edgerton|
|1984||Steve Stricker, Edgerton|
|1983||Jeff Bisbee, Stevens Point|
It was a summer to remember after the Sheboygan Lutheran senior won the WIAA Division 3 state boys golf tournament in early June. Wilcox finished in the top 10 in five of the six WPGA Junior points events he entered and turned heads in July with his top-15 showing at the Wisconsin State Amateur at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia in Green Lake, amassing 1,390 points and holding off Hunt (1,359) to earn WPGA junior boys player-of-the-year honors.
Wilcox did more than follow Hunt, the 2018 player of the year, to the top of the 2019 standings. He followed the University of Illinois recruit's example in getting there by not only scheduling tough tests, but passing each and every one of them.
"He's one (heck) of a player; he's been a friend of mine for the longest time," Wilcox said. "He's going to go very far in his golf career ... and for me to beat him, it makes me feel better about myself as a golfer. It shows anyone can beat anyone on any given day. That happening, it was really awesome."
The player-of-the-year honor wasn't the only grand prize for his showing over the summer. Wilcox recently ended a very quiet recruiting process when he gave his oral commitment to attend Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.), an NCAA Division II school that landed another under-recruited Wisconsin golfer a year ago when Kaukauna's Brock Hlinak signed with the Royals.
College interest in Wilcox was surprisingly sparse despite a resume that has been chock full of promise since 2016 when he burst on the scene by shooting a pair of 75s and finishing 11th at the WPGA Junior Championship. That was the best showing among Class of 2020 golfers by eight shots (over Hunt) and set the stage for a high school career in which he has finished first (2019), second (2017) and third (2018) in Division 3 in three WIAA state berths.
"I didn't have that many colleges recruit me as much much as Queens did," said Wilcox, who went with the offer from Royals coach Andrew Serketich – a Plymouth native in his third season as head coach – over interest from several Division III schools and Iowa Central Community College. "It was a great offer and Andy, he's a great guy (and) a great coach. It's awesome to get an offer like that from down south, where I can play ... year-round."
The connection to Hlinak was a factor in Wilcox's decision, too.
They partnered in June at the Wisconsin/Minnesota Junior Cup Matches and won their four-ball match 1-up. Prior to that, they had seen plenty of each other over a five-year stretch of WPGA Junior Tour events.
"He talks to me about Queens and how the guys down there are super nice," said Wilcox, who has yet to visit the school in person but got a virtual tour of the campus courtesy of Hlinak and his parents. "We visited them (in Kaukauna) and they showed us so many pictures. But we really looked into the school. ... We're going to visit sometime in the next month or two ... and meet the team before I sign. But we looked into the (academic) program and they have a great program there. Just a lot of great stuff there."
Wilcox believes his best stuff will fit in nicely with the Royals, who are ranked No. 30 in the most recent GolfStat/NCAA Division II national rankings.
His first taste of competition against more experienced golfers in July at the Wisconsin State Amateur showed he has the game to play at a high level. After shooting a pair of 75s, Wilcox closed 68-71 to vault past a host of accomplished golfers and post a top-15 finish in his State Am debut.
"The State Am last summer was actually the first time I tried qualifying for that tournament; that was a huge deal for me," said Wilcox, who followed up that finish with a runner-up showing at the Morgan Stanley WPGA Junior Tour Championship, a third-place finish at the WSGA State Junior Boys and a win at the one-day WPGA Players Tour event at Dretzka Park GC where he shot 69-71 to give himself enough player-of-the-year cushion to withstand Hunt.
"I'm very proud of myself and how hard I worked for that. At the same time, if you're at a tournament with those (top junior) guys, anyone can beat anyone on any given day. You can get someone who is ranked 60th in the state and they can shoot an under-par round. ... The biggest thing is I didn't even play in that many more tournaments than Piercen. ... I'm proud of myself for how many points I got considering how many tournaments I did."
Hunt said Wilcox has every reason to feel proud for himself.
"Drake is a deserving recipient for the honor," Hunt, the 2019 Western Junior champion, wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.golf. "He competed in many of the state’s biggest junior events and played well in a great deal of them. He is a great player and friend of mine who I am happy to see receive this award.
"I had a great season with many successes that I can be very proud of – 2019 has been filled with countless new experiences that will be extremely helpful as I prepare for what lies ahead."
2019 WPGA Junior Boys Player of the Year standings