As the head professional for both Riverside and Blackhawk golf courses in Janesville, Matt Ellis spends more time teaching golf than playing golf.
This week, however, Ellis hopes to play 72 holes in three days when he tees it up with the state’s best golfers at the 99th annual Wisconsin State Open at the Geneva National Resort & Club.
The tournament, which features a field of 204 professional and amateur players, begins Monday. Participants will play one round on the Trevino Course and one round on the Palmer Course for their first two rounds of play.
After the first two rounds, the field will be cut to the low 60 scores and ties.
The final 36 holes of play Wednesday will take place on the Trevino Course.
Past champions of the state’s most prestigious tournament include Steve Stricker, Jerry Kelly and Skip Kendall. Dan Woltman is the defending champion, and the last time an amateur won the tournament was Jordan Niebrugge in 2011. Ten past champions are in this year’s field.
The purse will be approximately $65,000. Professional participants will compete for cash prizes, with the winner receiving approximately $10,000. Amateur participants will compete for gift certificates, with $750 awarded for first place.
Of the 204 players in the field, 99 are professionals, 104 are amateurs and one player is playing as an amateur awaiting reinstatement from the USGA.
Ellis said there are a lot of reasons to be excited about playing in the event.
“With my responsibilities increasing, I don’t really have much time to play in tournaments,” Ellis said. “But this is the one tournament that really matters to me because you’re playing against the best golfers in the state.
“Plus, it’s almost like a home game for me because those are two courses that are close and that I know very well.”
This is the sixth time Ellis has played in the state open, with 30th-place his best finish. He said his goal for the State Open is a difficult one but one that he believes he can achieve.
“Making the cut would be an acceptable week for me,” Ellis said. “And if I can make some putts and take advantage and score well in my opening round on the Trevino course, which is the easier of the two, than I’ll give myself a chance going into Tuesday’s round on the Palmer course.”
Ellis said the two Geneva National courses are a contrast in style. The Trevino course is wide open and designed much-like its namesake Lee Trevino’s game, as it favors players that can hit a heavy left-to-right fade shot from tee to green.
“You could see some really low rounds on the Trevino course, and I think the golfers really like that after playing this event in year’s past at places like Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits where it’s tough to score,” Ellis said.
“The Trevino course is kind of like a 7,000-yard Riverside. You’re going to see golfers get after it and go pin-seeking.”
The Palmer course is considered much more challenging, with tighter fairways and smaller greens. Ellis said putting can be tough on the Palmer course depending on pin placements.
Ellis will be joined in the field by Janesville Country Club head pro Matt Kersten, along with five-time Janesville Men’s City champion Matt Behm, now playing out of Valders.
Kersten is playing in his first State Open.
“I’m really looking forward to it because it’s a the best field of any tournament in the state,” Kersten said. “And I like the fact that’s fairly close to home.
“I’ve played a little bit more the last week than I normally do to try and get ready for it, so we’ll see what happens. I’m just happy to be a part of it.”