In an age where parents often spend years driving their children around to distant tournaments in the hopes of someday earning a college scholarship, one high school sport remains somewhat ignored.
That sport is girls golf.
One reason might be the shorter golf season in the Midwest. It’s also an individual sport, which might keep youngsters from getting into it as much as basketball, volleyball or baseball.
Andrea Wieland, the women’s golf coach at UW-Whitewater, wonders why more girls don’t get into the sport, especially with the amount of openings on college golf teams.
“I just don’t think girls realize that opportunity is available to them,” Wieland said Sunday. “You really don’t have to be that good of a golfer to get that college experience. It’s not like you are going to get a scholarship everywhere, but the opportunity is there.”
Wieland grew up playing the sport in Milton. Wieland’s parents, Pat and Barb Meeker, ran Oak Ridge Golf Course, which gave Andrea the opportunity to develop her game.
It also gave her an “in” to the University of Wisconsin. After graduating from Milton High in 1995, she went to UW and played golf for four years in coach Dennis Tiziani’s program.
It was there that she met her husband, Kirk Wieland, who was a golfer on the men’s squad.
After graduating, Andrea became the Milton High girls golf coach, and Kirk and her took over the operational duties at Oak Ridge and Bonny Meade in 2001.
After 15 years as the Milton High coach, she left last year to take control of the UW-Whitewater women’s program. Kirk, already the Milton High boys coach, stepped in to coach the girls team.
Andrea knows the advantages golf can provide a young woman.
She recalled a Milton High golfer who was the fifth golfer on the squad, who shot in the 90s. She was told that she could go to Carroll College and play on the women’s golf team.
“She sent, ‘Me play college golf? Ha, ha, ha,’” Wieland said. “That is about what she said. I said, ‘For real. You are good enough to play college golf.’”
There are small Division II schools outside Wisconsin that have scholarship money for women’s golf.
“It is one of the untapped resources available out there,” Wieland said. “I remember hearing about 10 years ago that there are X amount of women’s golf scholarships that go unused every year.
“I’m actually starting to believe that.”
The bottom line is that girls don’t have to be state-championship caliber to play in college.
Wieland recalled another one of her former golfers at Milton High who only shot in the low 80s a few times.
She went on to Winona State in Minnesota and received some scholarship money.
“She was maybe the 7-8-9 golfer, but she had a great experience,” Wieland said. “She made some great friends, had some great times, got to play some beautiful golf courses and got a little scholarship money, as well.
“She’s a perfect example, and there are dozens of girls in Wisconsin that could be doing that and don’t.”
In recent years, the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin has conducted a College Showcase in the first week of July. It aims to match state high school golfers with collegiate coaches.
In 2016, 48 coaches from the DI, DII, DIII and NAIA levels attended the event at Whistling Straits.
High school boys and girls play 36 holes over two days, fill out forms and get to talk to coaches.
Go to golfcoacheswi.org for more information.
Wieland wants to see more girls taking advantage of these opportunities.
“My advice is to do their homework and research,” she said. “If you want to play college, there is a place for you.”