Wisconsin high school seniors whose boys golf season was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic will have an opportunity to compete against one another later this summer in an event co-sponsored by Kohler Golf and the Wisconsin PGA.
Andy Landenberger, director of junior golf for the WPGA, announced Thursday that the 2020 High School Salute to Seniors, presented by Blackwolf Run, will be July 30 on the Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run with a double tee start starting at 8 a.m. The 18-hole event, open to boys or girls who would have been on a WIAA-sponsored boys team this spring, will cost $75 for WPGA Junior members and $85 for non-members. Registration will begin Friday.
“We want to give these kids a chance to play in something competitive again, just because they didn’t have a (spring) season,” said Landenberger, who has been working on the event with Ed Elsner, tournament coordinator for Kohler Golf. “We’re trying to give them that experience they didn’t have all spring. They didn’t have a mini-meet or whatever. Some of these kids might not even be varsity players. They’re JV players and they never got that chance to play in something as a senior. We just wanted to give them something to help them out."
Landenberger has had several conversations about providing opportunities for high school golfers who did not get a chance to compete this spring since the WIAA Board of Control decided April 21 to cancel the spring sports season and tournament series. The decision included the expansion from five to 30 days the unrestricted contact period for spring coaches in hopes of replacing opportunities that spring athletes lost, but many conferences around the state – the Badger Conference became the latest Thursday – have said they will not participate in (or fund) activities during that 30-day window to “allow closure,” as a Badger Conference statement put it, for those seniors.
To that end, Landenberger isn’t sure what kind of response the Salute to Seniors event will get as graduating seniors turn their attention to college. He said only 60 of the 779 current WPGA Junior members are from the Class of 2020.
“When I first started (in 2003), our tours were dominated by 17- and 18-year-olds,” Landenberger said. “Half our field of 50 kids would be in our 16- 18-year-old boys division. Now, we’re at like 10 kids per event. It’s definitely done a 180 swing. Now, the 12-13 division, we’ll have 32 kids in that younger division and eight kids in the older division.
“It’s been like that for the last three or four years, for sure. That senior, I don’t see him a lot. If I do, I see him at the (WPGA) Junior Championship or I see him at a two-day (Players Tour) event. And that’s it. He’s not playing in a Junior Tour (event) at Beloit or Oakwood. They almost kind of think that they’re just done with that kind of stuff.”
This year, Landenberger hopes they find room in their hearts, and schedules, to tee it up at least one more time.
“Maybe they won’t end up playing in any other (WPGA Junior) events,” Landenberger said, “but they’re going to come out and play in this one just to see some other kids they’ve played with or end up playing with kids they know who are in their conference or from non-conference (events) and meet people in the same situation as them. … We just wanted to give them something to look forward to this summer because so far it’s been pretty bleak for them.”