High school and college golfers have become the backbone of tournament fields for events such as the Wisconsin State Women's Open and Wisconsin State Women's Amateur in recent years, so the 2023 schedule should look somewhat familiar to them.
The State Women's Open, administered by the Wisconsin PGA, will be played June 12-14 at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison. Many of today's younger golfers know Blackhawk CC well, having gown up playing there during the first round of the Sherri Steinhauer Girls Championship — an annual girls-only event on the WPGA Junior Tour schedule.
The Wisconsin State Women's Match Play will be played June 5-7 at The Racine CC and the State Women's Amateur will be played July 10-11 at Janesville CC. Those venues will also be familiar to many of the golfers in those fields — they played host to the State Women's Open in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
The Badger Mutual Insurance Women's Amateur will again close out the women's major championship season July 24-25 at Brown Deer Park GC in Milwaukee. Brown Deer Park is another recognizable venue to the high school and college set from its role as the site of the first round of the Wisconsin PGA Junior Championship.
“They are all courses where we’ve run men’s championships whether the state match-play or the State Amateur,” Thomas Fazio, the Wisconsin State Golf Association’s tournament manager in charge of administering women’s championships, said of the State Women's Match Play and the State Women's Am. “And it’s crucial to give these women challenging, well-conditioned golf courses for these championships. ... We are getting a lot of the good high school players. We are getting a lot of the good college players. The State Am provides more of a difficult set-up than they normally see."
Inevitably, though, the degree of difficulty varies from event to event and there tends to be something for just about everyone on the WSGA women's calendar. The 2023 schedule is no exception.
The State Match Play continues to be the WSGA championship with the most room for growth. It drew 59 golfers in 2022, the most since the WSGA took over administration of the women's events in 2020, but its 29-player qualifying field for championship flight held steady from 2021.
It has become the kickoff event on the women's schedule. Although its dates fall before the end of the school year for some high school golfers, Fazio thinks the stroke-play qualifying into a match-play bracket is a format that can be both a comfortable bridge for junior golfers looking to make the jump to women's amateur events and challenge accomplished golfers who enjoy the aggressive tendencies match play promotes.
"The deeper we can have that championship bracket in the match play is only going to enhance that tournament — the quality of the matches, the quality of the competition," said Fazio, who believes the championship-flight format — 18 holes of qualifying on Monday and potentially two matches a day Tuesday and Wednesday for those who reach the finals — is a great way for golfers to kick off the rust starting a new season. "We give each one of the golfers (in championship flight) the opportunity to post a score (in qualifying) and then play (matches) off that score."
This year, the state women's match play could also serve as a springboard for bigger events on the junior calendar among high school girls. It falls the three days before the local qualifier for the U.S. Girls Junior Championship, which is June 8 at Washington County GC in Hartford.
"It gets them out there, playing three days in a row kind of fine-tuning their game to get ready for that USGA qualifier," Fazio said. "Plus, we haven't been to Racine CC in awhile, especially on the women's side ... so it's exciting to get there and bring a women's event there, especially one like the match play.
"It is a tournament unlike any other. Of all the women's tournaments we run, it's the only one with a match-play format. Obviously, we all know in match play score doesn't matter. It's just about beating the person you're going against, regardless what the score on that hole may be."
There are other events on the WSGA women's calendar that typically don't need much hype to fill the tee sheet, Fazio said.
The Wisconsin Women's Four-Ball Championship, which saw its participation numbers drop from 48 teams at Maple Bluff CC in Madison in 2021 to 32 in 2022 at La Crosse CC, looks to bounce back this year when it moves a little later on the calendar (July 31 and Aug. 1) and a little closer to the Madison area at Reedsburg CC. The venue is the site each October of the annual Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship, making the four-ball championship a logical event for the nearly 50 Wisconsin-born golfers at the state's eight NCAA Division III schools in the University of Wisconsin System if not their teammates who are eligible by virtue of their attending a Wisconsin school.
The Wisconsin Women's Scramble Championship, which replaced the undersubscribed Wisconsin Women's Mid-Amateur in 2021, has sold out both years as has the Patti Pelischek Memorial Solheim Cup. This year, those events will be played Aug. 13 (Wanaki GC in Menomonee Falls) and Aug. 20 (The GC at Camelot in Lomira), respectively.
"The reason those are all popular is that team format," Fazio said. "We've found in ... women's amateur golf, they love the team format. That Women's Scramble is the two-person scramble. The Solheim Cup is that 6-6-6 format. Those team events, they give you the opportunity to partner up with a friend or, potentially, a teammate for those women who are still in college or high school. It gives them an opportunity to go out and compete together.
"Those are the ones that are most popular and more difficult to get into. We had waiting lists this past year for the first time for some of those events. Those are also bringing in a lot of new players, on the women's side, for those team events. We had a lot of people play in them for the first time and it was their first WSGA event ever, so that's extremely exciting to get a bunch of new people in and playing. That's exactly what we want.
"We love those golfers who play every, single year and love what we do. Obviously, we want to reach other people and allow others who maybe have not played or maybe not even heard of the WSGA and the events we offer for women's golf."
Registration for WSGA events typically begins in mid-February. Additional entry information will be posted to the WSGA website later this month.