Wisconsin Dells will be rolling out the red carpet for junior golfers this summer with a new, 36-hole event on the schedule that showcases two of the area's premier courses as well as the waterpark amenities associated with both.
Organizers believe it will be a major event on Wisconsin's junior golf calendar.
The Dells' Junior Golf Championship, presented by American Family Insurance, will be played July 1 and 2 at Wild Rock Golf Club and Trappers Turn Golf Course, it was announced Monday. Open to golfers age 12 to 18, boys will play Trappers Turn on Day 1 while the girls play Wild Rock, beginning at 9 a.m. They will swap courses on Day 2 with play beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Cost of the tournament is $185 for Wisconsin PGA Junior members and $200 for non-members and is open to any junior golfer from around the country who meets a yet-to-be determined handicap requirement (likely to be set at 10.1 or lower for boys and 15.1 or lower for girls). Cost includes lunch both days as well as a banquet for all participants at Glacier Canyon Conference Center following play July 2.
"I (can't emphasize) how big a deal this event is and will be in the future," said Andy Landenberger, the director of junior golf for the Wisconsin PGA, which will help the two courses run the tournament. "The goal of this event is to bring the best players from around the Midwest to play and (that) includes Wisconsin kids. I think this event will strengthen our 36-hole schedule."
As college coaches have raised the recruiting bar and started to look for potential recruits with more rigorous tournament resumes, the WPGA has tried to give Wisconsin junior golfers those kind of tournament options closer to home.
The WPGA's Players Tour schedule has sought to meet that need, but there are just three such 36-hole events on the 2019 schedule. Those are at Blackwolf Run in Kohler (June 23-24), at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia in Green Lake (July 10-11) and at Dretzka Park in Milwaukee (Aug. 9), which will feature all 36 holes in a single-day format.
The Lake Arrowhead Invitational (June 10-11), the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin College Showcase (July 7-8) and the Morgan Stanley Tour Championship (July 28-29) are also listed on the 2019 Players Tour schedule. The WPGA Junior Championship (June 19-20) — the state's largest junior golf tournament — is also a 36-hole tournament.
"We have not locked down the exact event specifics yet," Landenberger said. "But my thought was to have all boys 12-13 (age division) play a course of around 6,000 yards and boys 14-15 and 16-18 play a 6,400 to 6,700-yard golf course. Girls will play around 5,700 yards."
Landenberger said the event will be a Junior Golf Scoreboard-sanctioned tournament in its first year, but it must be an established event to earn American Junior Golf Association status. "I would expect to get some status next year and, in the future, to grow status with AJGA."
Landenberger credited Wild Rock golf operations director Pat Stein and Trappers Turn general manager Patrick Steffes, with help from American Family Insurance, for doing the legwork required to launch this event. He expects it to be a popular stop for junior golfers and their families with both host facilities having waterpark hotels in their portfolios — Wild Rock being part of the Wilderness Resort and Trappers Turn being part of the Kalahari Resort.
"This is a huge step for a company like American Family Insurance to step up to sponsor this event," Landenberger said. "It will be a top-notch event for junior players."
Stein said in a statement: “We are thrilled to be elevating junior golf in Wisconsin to a new level with the new Dells’ Junior Golf Championship. The greater Dells region has so many beautiful, award-winning courses to play and it is such a popular family destination. We also appreciate the support from American Family Insurance to share in our vision to create new playing opportunities for youth golfers.”