It’s not the Ryder Cup.
But for area youth golfers ages 8-13, a run through the state PGA Junior League competition has probably felt like it.
Ten players from three area courses have teamed up to take down the best teams from around the state. And they’re playing this weekend at Brown Deer Park Golf Course—former site of the PGA’s U.S. Bank Championship and Greater Milwaukee Open—with a trip to the national championship in Arizona on the line.
“This is really fun,” said Kirk Wieland, the team’s assistant coach out of Oak Ridge Golf Course in Milton. “It’s kids from Prairie Woods, Beloit Club and Oak Ridge, and we’re playing in the Midwest Regional.
“It’s an unbelievable experience for these kids from different communities to come together as a team. They have no clue how significant their winning the state championship was. That’s a pretty prestigious thing.”
PGA Junior League is one of the fastest-growing youth programs, with 42,000 participants on 3,400 teams nationwide, according to program officials.
The local team of players 13 years old and younger consists of: Brett Wieland, Kade Wieland, Mya Nicholson, Deegan Riley and Xander Wuetrich, of Oak Ridge; Kai Wong, Griffin Oberneder, Caleb Kern and Adam Becker, of Beloit Club; and Quinten Luehne, of Prairie Woods. Beloit Club’s Travis Becker is the group’s head coach.
“Each match you play, it’s three three-hole matches, and you can rotate players in and out if need be,” Kirk Wieland said. “It’s a scramble format, match play, so the kids are getting introduced to a different game.
“Match play is exciting because there’s so many twists and turns. The kids sometimes are figuring out what they’re supposed to do, but the scores have been great.”
The team played last weekend in a sub-regional tournament at University Ridge in Madison, beating teams from Green Bay and Madison to capture the state title.
The Janesville/Beloit team was set to take on a pair of teams from Illinois and another from Minnesota in regional action, which began Saturday and continues today.
The winner today advances to the PGA Junior League Championship at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Nov. 16-19.
“Wherever it takes us, we couldn’t be more proud,” Wieland said. “They play wonderful competition and on some great courses. It’s just awesome.
“Travis did it in Madison for a couple years, and we started this program last year. We got beat in the first round (at state) with virtually the same team as this year. The bottom line is this year the kids have been playing awesome.”
Oberneder is the only 13-year-old player for Janesville/Beloit, so the team should be intact next year.
“We’re extremely young teams compared to most,” Wieland said. “We’re excited about the future. And right now we’re having a blast.”