August 22, 2017
|Wisconsin's Junior Golf Explosion
An Interview with Wisconsin's Director of Junior Golf
By Tim CotroneoWhen you're the father of 3,000 boys and girls, summers tend to get a bit hectic. As Wisconsin's Director of Junior Golf, Andy Landenberger plays proud papa to dozens of kids who experience Wisconsin's great outdoors through the game of golf.
In 2003, Landenberger took the reins of Wisconsin's junior program, and he hasn't looked back. When you're running up to two dozen Badger-land tournaments in a month, there's only time to look forward.
Wisconsin's junior tour really takes off in April when youngsters, ages seven to 21, sign up for tournaments well in advance of their first tee time. So as seasonal white snow transitions to fairway green, Landenberger is already performing at warp speed to keep up with all that's on his plate for the 2017 junior golf season.
What was the Wisconsin Junior Program like when you started back in 2003?
Back then, there were just two of us running events. At that time we had 32 events happening throughout the summer. In 2017, we have 96 Junior Tour events running from June 9 to August 28. So we've grown quite a bit.
What has been the Junior Program's biggest area of growth?
We've had significant growth in girl golfers and girls-only events. This is in addition to events involving both boys and girls. Highlights of the girls tour include the SentryWorld Classic event in Stevens Point, the Girls Match Play at Cherokee Country Club in Madison, and the Sherri Steinhauer tournament at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison.
What do you think are the main drivers for golf becoming more popular and getting more kids involved?
Right now, the Drive, Chip, and Putt skills competition is very popular. This is a free event, and kids can get involved at a very young age. It's really fun watching an eight-year-old chip within three feet. This event gets youngsters hooked on golf.
What were some of the Wisconsin Junior highlights from 2016?
Some of the scores our junior golfers shot were amazing. Hunter Eichhorn, our Wisconsin Player of the Year, shot a 71 and 65 at Black Wolf Run. Hunter previously shot a 62 at one of our junior tour events. He recently signed a college letter of intent for Marquette University.
What events are you excited about for 2017?
This is the first year we're involved with a High School College Showcase event presented by the Wisconsin high school golf coaches. This event is for high school sophomores and juniors. For the first time this event will be followed by a 36-hole tournament. Typically about 20 to 30 college coaches come out to watch these high school golfers compete.
At the end of June, we have the 20th annual Wisconsin versus Minnesota Cup Matches at Troy Burne in Hudson. This is a Ryder Cup format featuring 24 of the best golfers from both states.
For someone not familiar with Junior Golf, what would surprise them about the program?
What's surprising is the number of options on where and when a child can play. There is so much going on throughout the state. There are events including players with varied levels of skill and ability. It seems like there is something going on nearly every day in the summer.
Are there certain junior programs that kids are really responding to?
Our Par 3 tournaments and tours are fun. Many of these holes are only 60 to 70 yards long. You've never seen a happier sight than when an eight-year-old scores a hole-in- one. We had a total of 8 holes-in-one occur in our 2016 junior events.
What kind of life lessons can a child learn from playing golf?
They learn a lot about themselves. Golf is about integrity and being self reliant. In 2010, 14-year-old Zach Nash won the Milwaukee County Parks Tour Invitational. Afterward Zach discovered that he played the event with 15 clubs in his bag. Zach contacted me and turned his medal back in. The Invitational's second place finisher was awarded first. The sportsmanship Zach exhibited was later highlighted in an article in Golf Digest. Kids grow up on the golf course.
What is one of your favorite memories from your involvement in the Junior Program?
We had a girl golfer who started participating in junior events at eight years old. Everyone called her Speedy because she played so fast. When Speedy was 11, I entered her name on the scoreboard as Hallie Kent. After the tournament she came up to me and requested that in the future, I could refer to her as Speedy. Speedy is now 16 years old, and she gets better every year.
You've been at this for 14 years. How has being involved with junior golf impacted your life?
I've watched some of these kids grow from grade school to attending college. Several players have come back to mentor younger golfers. One of the best parts about golf is that it's a sport that lasts a lifetime. http://www.wiscjuniorgolf.com/
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