William Harned remembers what it was like to be the new kid on the junior golf block in Wisconsin, the proverbial sunbird from Connecticut who would spend June, July and most of August at his family's summer home in Nashotah and, starting in 2019, compete in tournaments on the Wisconsin PGA Junior Tour.
"Coming in my first year, I really didn't know who any of the kids were," Harned recalled recently of that first summer. "Every year (since), I've become friends with a lot of them. That's the biggest thing, becoming familiar with everyone playing. Now if I go play any tournament in Wisconsin, I know who pretty much the whole field is and who's good in that field."
2022 WPGA Junior Player-of-the-Year Points Leaders
|1||William Harned 2024, Nashotah, WI||1,922.50||1||Norah Roberts 2023, Racine, WI||2,275.00|
|2||Rasmus Madsen 2023, Kimberly, WI||1,742.50||2||Payton Haugen 2026, Brookfield, WI||1,892.50|
|3||Mason Schmidtke 2023, Sheboygan, WI||1,723.75||3||Hannah Dunk 2023, Janesville, WI||1,552.50|
|4||William Schlitz 2024, Eau Claire, WI||1,302.50||4||Madison Haugen 2024, Brookfield, WI||1,440.00|
|5||Spencer Lynch 2023, Neenah, WI||1,072.30||5||Cassandra Psuik 2023, Greenfield, WI||1,414.17|
|6||Sebastian Kasun 2022, Elm Grove, WI||1,071.07||6||McKenna Nelson 2027, Beaver Dam, WI||1,250.00|
|7||Alex Koenig 2023, Wales, WI||1,035.00||7||Kylie Walker 2024, Kenosha, WI||1,187.50|
|8||Noah Kirsch 2022, Lancaster, WI||1,028.57||8||Ava Salay 2023, Prescott, WI||1,182.50|
|9||Tyson Sparks 2024, Muskego, WI/Henderson, NV||1,005.00||9||Grace Durkin 2023, Green Bay, WI||1,159.17|
|10||Alex Weiss 2023, Middleton, WI||959.07||10||Riley Pechinski 2023, Plover, WI||1,090.00|
And the rest of the field has become quite familiar with Harned and how good he has become.
In three short years, Harned has gone from a Wisconsin unknown to a University of Wisconsin commit with a stop as WPGA Junior boys player of the year in between. He earned the award with 1,922.50 points — out-pointing Appleton's Rasmus Madsen (1,742.50) and Sheboygan's Mason Schmidtke (1,723.75) — on the strength of his victory at the Wisconsin State Junior Boys Championship, a T-15 showing at the Wisconsin State Amateur Championship and top-five finishes at the Mike Schnarr Boys Championship (T-2), the 2022 College Showcase (T-3), the WPGA Junior Championship (T-5) and the Lake Arrowhead Invitational (T-5).
Racine's Norah Roberts, a senior at Union Grove High School, repeated as WPGA Junior girls player of the year, amassing 2,275 points. The North Dakota State recruit enjoyed another dominating summer on the junior circuit, winning the Wisconsin State Junior Girls Championship and the Sherri Steinhauer Girls Championship and finishing second at the Lake Arrowhead Invitational and the WPGA Junior Championship to top Brookfield's Payton Haugen (1,892.50), Milton's Hannah Dunk (1,552.50), Brookfield's Madison Haugen (1,440) and Greenfield's Cassie Psuik (1414.17) for the honor.
"Last year, winning Player of Year was one of my goals and it was incredible to accomplish it after so many years of playing WPGA Junior golf," Roberts wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf after breaking her record point total of 2021 (2,105) and leading a record 11 golfers over the 1,000-point mark. "However, winning it in 2022 feels like an even bigger accomplishment, especially considering how the competition continues to get better every year. This past summer, so many of the girls had great seasons, and continued to play well tournament after tournament."
Likewise, Harned topped the boys standings with the largest point total since 2015 when Lodi's Adam Miller set the record with 1,945. Nine boys topped the 1,000-point mark and Harned accounted for 1,200 in his final four starts alone starting with the State Am at Sand Valley Golf Resort where he opened with 73-69-75 and found himself T-4 after 54 holes only to shoot a 78 on the final day and drop into a tie for 15th.
"The State Am was so new to me and so different," Harned said. "I was just so unsure of how I'd stack up, like I didn't know if I'd have trouble making the cut or being in contention. I just had no idea."
Two weeks later, Harned came to The Oaks GC in Cottage Grove with supreme confidence and won the Wisconsin State Junior. He shot 66-75-66 and rallied from four strokes behind the final day, holding off UW-Green Bay-bound Trent Meyer of Lake Nebagamon to take the title by a single stroke.
"The thing I remember was just how patient and relaxed I was the last day," Harned said. "After the second, ... I knew I'd have to shoot something around what I did the first day. I felt I was super-patient the whole day. I didn't come out super-aggressive. I just let it come to me and gave myself a lot of opportunities to make some birdies and post a low number."
Harned's work throughout the summer caught the eye of Badgers coach Mike Wilson. It started at the U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier in June at Blackhawk CC in Madison, where Harned shot 71 in the same group as current UW golfer Jacob Beckman (67) and Sheboygan's Mason Schmidtke (69), a senior at Sheboygan North who would give his oral commitment to Marquette University later in the summer.
That interest from UW picked up with his breakthrough performance at the State Am and hit a peak with his win at the Wisconsin State Junior. Harned, who said he had looked into a couple of Ivy League schools and briefly considered Marquette, took two unofficial visits to Madison ahead of the weekend in late October when he took his official visit and committed a day later.
"I've always been super-interested in Wisconsin," said Harned, whose family has deep roots in the Milwaukee area. "I've been a big Badgers fan my whole life. I kind of started my recruiting process in the spring, sending some emails to coaches. Wisconsin was the first one I sent out.
"Everything about Wisconsin I really liked. Obviously, the school has great academics. I really like the campus. They have really, really great coaches in Coach Wilson and (assistant coach Ross) Thompson. I know that they're going to develop me and make me the best player I can be."
That is also the focus of Roberts as she heads into her final summer of junior golf before leaving for Fargo in the fall.
Like Harned, Roberts enjoys looking back to her start in junior golf and how far she has come. She remembers her first tournament being a Pepsi Par-3 Series event at Warnimont GC in Cudahy in 2013 when she was just 8.
"I remember that day fairly well, and I can remember being so happy at the end of it and thinking it was something I wanted to do again," wrote Roberts, who shot 56 on the par-27 layout and finished second to Mya Nicholson of Janesville — one of the many golfers she would see as she advanced through the WPGA Futures Tour, WPGA Junior Tour and, more recently, the WPGA Players Tour.
"In a way, golf during the Futures Tour wasn't any different than it is now since there was always good competition and always a challenge. Even considering who was at the events each week, it's still a similar list. Players like Madison Haugen, Cassie Psuik, Jessica Guiser, Madeline Fiebig and Mya Nicholson are just some of the players that I distinctly remember being there.
"Back then, I was just trying to gain experience and wasn't really concerned with winning. But as I've gotten older, golf tournaments have changed in that sense."
That's what happens when you've been around the junior golf block a time or two. And Harned and Roberts will attest: There is no greater experience than reaching the top.