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Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 22, 2017

Lessons Learned By The Executive Director Of The Wisconsin Section PGA
By Tim Cotroneo

Joe Stadler, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Section PGA, remembers being totally unsure what he should do upon graduating from UW Stevens Point in 1989. Taking a golf lesson proved to be a turning point that steered Stadler in the right career direction.

"When I graduated from college, I wasn't really sure what my next step should be. I received a winter golf lesson after graduation. Mark Hansen, my golf instructor, suggested that I consider turning professional and working at a golf course. I decided to follow his advice," Stadler reflected.

Almost 28 years later, Stadler is still heeding that advice. Since 1995, Stadler has worked as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Section of the PGA. Bolstered by the encouragement of his golf mentors and a willingness to stretch beyond his job description helped guide Stadler to his role leading Wisconsin's PGA membership.

Learn By Doing
"I was fortunate that during my first job as an Assistant Professional at Oakwood Park Golf Course, Mark Krause, my boss, let me tackle whatever I wanted to learn. I was involved with the pro shop, the financial side, and he let me run tournaments. My experience in the administrative end and hands-on tournament involvement ended up being a key element in my future career success," Stadler said.

After four seasons at Oakwood, Stadler's golf tournament skill set and burgeoning network of industry contacts began reaping benefits. The Tournament Director of the Wisconsin Section PGA confided that she was moving on. Stadler's involvement in running events and his Milwaukee Junior Tour experience spurred a second key contact in the PGA chain. "I got to know Tony Coleman, the Executive Director of the PGA through my running tournaments. Tony offered me the Wisconsin Section PGA Tournament Director job," Stadler said.

Over the course of 18 months in his new job, Stadler helped run 45 statewide events. During this time Stadler also put his UW Stevens Point Business Management degree to work while overseeing tournament registration, pairings, and start-to-finish operations. Less than two years after taking the helm as Tournament Director, his relationship with Coleman would prove fruitful again.

Grabbing The PGA Executive Director Baton
Coleman announced that he was taking the General Manager job at Bishops Bay Country Club in Middleton, WI. When a PGA board member turned down the Wisconsin Section PGA Executive Director position, Coleman encouraged Stadler to apply.

During the interview process, Stadler discovered that he had developed an intricate knowledge of Wisconsin Section PGA golf services from working as an Assistant Pro Oakwood Park. After being interviewed by a half dozen people, Stadler was offered the Executive Director position. Stadler began working at the job he still holds today in February of 1995.

When Stadler took over the Executive Director reins, the Wisconsin Section PGA had 200 members. Today there are 440 members. In addition to watching PGA membership more than double, Stadler is proud of Wisconsin's junior program expansion, which anticipates 100 teams this year.

U.S. Open And More Comes To Wisconsin
Looking back, Stadler is thrilled by how the game of golf has grown during his 22 years as Wisconsin's PGA Executive Director. The state has played host to three PGA Championships, two U.S. Women's Opens, and one U.S. Senior Open. What really has Stadler jazzed is what's on tap for 2017.

"We're extremely excited about Wisconsin hosting our first U.S. Open from June 12-17 at Erin Hills. Personally, I'll be between the ropes with 70 volunteers on the practice range and putting green," Stadler said.

From June 19-25, Wisconsin will also host the American Family Insurance Champions Tour event at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison. In the month of June, Wisconsin will be on the national stage for two weeks running. Just two weeks later, the LPGA will visit Wisconsin for the first time with the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic.

Giving Back To The Game And To Our Veterans
When Stadler was asked what was on his 2017 wish list, one desire was what you might expect. The other under the radar wish was something he'd been quietly cultivating for the past two years.

"First of all, we're always looking to grow the game. In addition to developing our PGA Junior League for youngsters 7 to 13, we're also trying to get more people involved in golf. The more people who play, volunteer, take lessons, and buy merchandise, the better our long-term future," Stadler said.

Stadler's second wish involves re-opening the Veterans Golf Course that closed in 2013. "Last year we started the groundwork for reopening the Veterans Golf Course next to the VA Hospital in Tomah. We're trying to raise funds for a course that would be devoted to our veterans. We see this course helping those veterans dealing with a variety of health and disability issues. One of the PGA's core missions is to give back. Who better to help but our vets?" Stadler said.

Almost 28 years since Joe Stadler explored a new career path, it seems the lessons he's learned are about so much more than golf.

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