When the American Family Insurance Championship was bumped from its usual schedule spot the third weekend of June and forced to move its PGA Tour Champions tournament at University Ridge Golf Course ahead to June 5-7, 2020, a ripple effect was created that WIAA schools still are working through.
The WIAA boys golf state tournament was pushed back two weeks to June 15-16 at University Ridge, meaning the start of practice (April 6) and the date for first meets (April 9) were pushed back from previous years.
Schedules that had been formulated needed to be revised and meets at public courses had to be shifted.
One prominent prep player — Hartland Arrowhead senior Piercen Hunt, who won WIAA Division 1 state titles in 2017 and 2018 and finished tied for sixth in 2019 — has said he plans to skip his senior season because the later finish to the high school season conflicts with his already planned summer golf schedule. Hunt’s decision then became a factor in Arrowhead coach Greg Budzien’s decision to retire.
Waunakee boys golf coach Betsy Zadra said in past years high school teams didn’t have to worry about golf courses being busy starting in late March, but being pushed back in 2020 could affect landing practice locations. Mount Horeb coach Nolan Krentz said his program’s scheduling of practices now will become more difficult due to conflicts with public golf leagues starting in May.
On the bright — and potentially warmer — side, Krentz said the weather might be better.
Said Zadra: “I’m not into the cold. I’m liking the fact we are in April.”
A primary challenge has become scheduling conference meets in conjunction with invitationals.
“I think it was more of a scheduling thing for all the coaches,” Zadra said. “We worked on all of our scheduling back in May, so we had all of our scheduling done. We had all of our dates done. So, we had to go back and do all of our scheduling again. … It’s been challenging.”
Said Krentz: “With the start of the season pushed back a week, some invites stayed as scheduled while others moved back a week or in one case, two weeks. We had to completely redo our (Badger) conference schedule at both the Varsity and JV levels to allow everyone to still participate in the same invites they have in years past.”
Madison Memorial athletic director and Madison school district AD Jeremy Schlitz indicated finalizing of schedules is just starting to occur but he believed there could be a positive impact because cold and inclement weather made for difficult early meets the past few springs.
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"The only challenge that we have faced so far is setting the rest of the schedule around this change,” Stoughton athletic director Mel Dow wrote in an email. “Courses, tournaments, league events, etc. Not so much an internal issue, but one that depends on public venues exclusively is the biggest challenge. I am not sure of a high school out there that has their own course and can make schedule changes as easily as we can with our gyms.”
WIAA assistant director Tom Shafranski said the WIAA, which has a contract with University Ridge for six more years and understands the AmFam’s value for golf in the state and the Madison area, didn’t consider moving the tournament in 2020 and had no problems working with University Ridge and the PGA to make the change work for everyone involved.
“On the positive side, many coaches feel going a week later will provide better odds for better weather conditions — especially for golf teams in the northern areas of Wisconsin,” Shafranski wrote in an email. “There have been some scheduling issues, but these are local issues that relate to certain tournaments some high school teams like to participate in. They all seem to be working these issues out with the courses involved — there is plenty of time and options available for them to get these dates handled.”
Monona Grove coach Dan Zweifel said: “The end of the season should have great weather and allow the kids to play without layers of clothing on. And the courses will be in good shape by the end of May.”
University of Illinois commit Hunt recently confirmed to Wisconsin.golf that he won’t compete for Arrowhead in the spring. Conflicts with national events, including the Western Junior Championship June 15-18, 2020, due to the PGA Tour-mandated date change were the reason. Hunt wanted to defend the Western Junior title he won last year, he told Wisconsin.golf, which also detailed Budzien’s decision to retire from coaching.
Informed of Hunt’s decision, Shafranski responded: “(That is) always a student-athlete/family decision. Certainly, we hate to see talented players go elsewhere prior to their graduation and we are seeing less and less of high school students leaving their high school teams for other options, but they still happen. It is always unfortunate for high school athletes to be removed from friends, classmates, teammates. However, as we always identify in sports like hockey -- this opens a position for another student-athlete to be a part of his (or) her high school team, with the players they have, in most cases grown up with. It is often an opportunity that may not have happened for them.”
Zweifel hasn’t learned about any area golfers who have decided not to play and believes Hunt might be a special circumstance.
Hunt, of course, could change his mind prior to boys golf season beginning, but Krentz found it extremely disappointing a player of Hunt’s caliber had to make that decision.
“(Hunt) wouldn’t want to pass that up,” Zadra said about the Western Junior. “That is too big of an event for him. That is big. He needs to go play in that. I totally understands how he feels, but he shouldn’t have to make that decision.”