Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Golf Takes Center Stage in Wisconsin

Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Southeastern Wisconsin will play host to five major golf tournaments over the next ten years. The tournaments will give golf fans a unique opportunity to see some of the sport’s best players on a regular basis. There are several reasons why Wisconsin is so attractive to PGA and USGA.

Things should soon return to normal at Whistling Straits, following the second PGA Championship held there in six years. Then in five more, the course will again serve as host. And that won’t be the only time golf tournaments of international significance are played in Wisconsin in upcoming years. A handful of others are already scheduled.

Wisconsin PGA President Ike Bailey says much of the credit for the state attracting so many major events, goes to Herb Kohler and his commitment to build extraordinary courses here such as Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run.

"That’s part of it right there is having golf courses that the pros want to play and the best amateurs when they have the amateurs as well. In the case of Erin Hills getting the U.S. Open, a lot of it goes to the owners and the architects that feel that it’s worthy of distinction like that," Bailey says.

Bailey says the courses also have enough real estate to accommodate parking and amenities for thousands of fans.

Governor Jim Doyle says fan support helps make Wisconsin an attractive host of tournament golf. He says the sport is deeply rooted in the state’s culture, just like fishing and hunting.

"I’m probably pretty typical. I grew up and some of my greatest memories as a boy are playing golf with my dad. He wasn’t a great golfer but I can remember him once getting a 79. He was federal judge and a very distinguished man and he got a 79 and turned a backward cartwheel on the 18th green when it did it. So, I mean this are part of who we are, this is our culture of who we are," Doyle says.

Golf has been part of the Krause family for more than 40 years. They own Muskego Lakes Country Club, a public course in Waukesha County. But Wisconsin PGA member, Mark Krause says unfortunately for his business, the popularity of playing golf has decreased during the past eight years. He blames the decline on the economy and the fact that people’s lives are hectic. Despite the drop in rounds played however, Krause is hopeful that an event like the PGA Championship will be a magnet for duffers and non-players alike.

"It’s like having a chance to go to the Superbowl I guess you could say. When you get to see the big names up close, it’s a pretty cool thing. I mean you can go to the range at Whistling Straits, you know within 20 yards of you are the best players in the world walking by," Krause says.

Liftetime Wisconsin PGA member Tom LaFond teaches at the Currie Park golf dome. He agrees with Krause.

“Being that close, it’s infectious. It just gets into your system and you think, ‘If I could just hit the ball like that, that would be just thrilling.’ And, there is some type of osmosis when you watch these fellas hit the ball so well. And, if you practice after that, some of that seeps into your physical system and it does make you better, at least briefly," La Fond says.

If watching the pros can rub off, perhaps local course managers will see fewer errant shots at their courses this week by some of the legions of fans who attended the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.

One of the hundreds of thousands of people who attended this week's PGA Championship was Sports Illustrated senior golf writer, and Wisconsin native, Gary Van Sickle. He says it was a remarkable tournament.