The WIAA intends to go forward with a girls golf tournament series this fall despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but — for only the second time since 1993 — the tournament trail will not lead to University Ridge Golf Course in Madison.
WIAA assistant director Tom Shafranski told Wisconsin.Golf Wednesday that the 2020 state tournament will move this fall to the Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run in Kohler. The tournament is scheduled for Oct. 12-13.
The move was necessitated by Wednesday's announcement that WIAA and University of Wisconsin officials have mutually decided to move WIAA tournaments that utilize UW facilities off the Madison campus this fall due to continuing COVID-19 concerns and restrictions in Dane County.
The change in venue for girls golf must be approved by the WIAA Board of Control, which Shafranski expects to happen at its regular meeting Sept. 18. Shafranski said Dirk Willis, the vice president of golf, landscape and retail for Kohler Co. and past president of the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin, offered to host the state tournament once it became apparent to the WIAA that University Ridge would not be able to accommodate the event this fall.
It marks only the second time since University Ridge became the permanent host of the WIAA state golf tournaments in 1994 that the girls golf season won't end there. The 2012 championship was played at Cherokee Country Club in Madison while University Ridge was closed due to a large-scale greens renovation.
"The current circumstances that Dane County is experiencing made it difficult to be able to look at any other location in Dane County," Shafranski said. "The (GCAW), as a back-up plan, we had been talking over the last couple of months and identifying the next site that we might ask. Of course, Dirk Willis, having been a great high school coach at Kohler, ... is a terrific contact over there (at Golf Kohler) and knows how to run big-time tournaments, certainly."
Shafranski said WIAA executive staff members were alerted over the weekend to the need to move WIAA events off the UW campus. UW-Madison chancellor Becky Blank on Monday issued a directive to students asking them to "severely limit in-person interaction" through Sept. 21 due to an increase in COVID-19 cases among the UW population, especially among students living off-campus.
"Over the weekend, discussions started happening with the issues that were going on on campus," Shafranski said. "We were notified about those things. It happened very, very quickly. Dirk and his staff, as soon as I called them, were willing to step forward and make arrangements, rearrange some things with their customers and clients. We are looking to make it as smooth a transition as possible for all of our players, parents and high school golf fans."
Also impacted by Wednesday's announcement were girls tennis, which was to have played its state individual tournament Oct. 15-17 and its state team tournament Oct. 23-24 at UW's Nielsen Tennis Stadium; and girls swimming and diving, which was to have been held Nov. 13-14 in the Soderholm Family Aquatic Center at the new Nicholas Recreation Center. That facility — located next to the Kohl Center — is scheduled to open Sept. 14, however, the pool facility's opening has been delayed until mid-October due to the international travel ban, which pushed back the installation of the movable pool floor.
The release indicated there will not be a WIAA state football finals at Camp Randal Stadium, saying the reduced, 11-week football season approved in July by the WIAA Board of Control "ruled out conducting the 2020 state football finals at Camp Randall." It has been played there annually since 1982.
Girls golf coaches, meanwhile, are just hoping they can build off the positive example their sport has set for interscholastic sports to start the 2020-21 school year and keep that going the next five weeks on the way to Kohler.
"We are very pleased to have the event at Blackwolf," Green Bay Notre Dame coach Brian Bobinski, the president of the GCAW, told Wisconsin.Golf in a text message. "(It's an) outstanding venue and the girls will be treated very well. We feel really good about the golf season thus far. We're really hoping it continues and can be played to its conclusion."