Dells Junior Championship

The Dells Junior Championship was added to the Wisconsin PGA Junior Foundation schedule this season to entice young golfers from all over the Midwest to travel to central Wisconsin for two days of competition and summertime fun.

          Then, consider this week’s inaugural Dells Junior Championship a success on all counts, as the boys overall title was determined in a playoff won by Kyle Wille of Edgerton, and Rachel Kauflin of Wauwatosa won the girls championship going away. And one more thing: Summertime showed up right on cue for the final round, held in balmy, upper 80-degree conditions on Tuesday.

          This first Dells Junior Championship, held at Wild Rock GC and Trappers Turn, was added to an already crowded summer schedule in Wisconsin, so the event competed for the state’s top junior players. Qualifying events were also held this week for the Wisconsin State Amateur Championship and an American Junior Golf Association tournament, but 80 players still showed up in the Dells.

          Wille, who recently turned 18 and is playing his last summer of junior golf, said he chose to play the Dells Junior Championship because it fit in his schedule, which recently included an international trip.

          “I went to Puerto Rico for 10 days on a mission trip with my church, and I just got back,” Wille said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve only been back for four days, and I didn’t trust my game enough to try for the State Amateur.”

          After an up and down first round Monday at Trappers Turn – featuring two double bogeys, an eagle and just six pars – Wille found more consistency Tuesday at Wild Rock. After his only blemish of the day, a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 12th hole where he had tree trouble, Wille found himself four strokes behind Marty Swab of Menomonee Falls with four holes to play.

          However, Swab stumbled coming in, going 3 over on his final four holes, and Wille was able to forge the tie thanks to a key chip-in for birdie from the fringe on the 17th hole.

          Wille admits he played conservatively in his short playoff with Swab, held on Wild Rock’s par-5 14th hole. He hit driver off the tee, but his shot went slightly left into the rough. He wedged out from there, leaving about 50 yards to the green. His approach ended up 12 feet from the hole, and he two-putted for a par and the win.

          Swab missed the green and ended up in some long fescue, leading to bogey.

          “I played pretty conservative (on the playoff hole),” he said. “I just didn’t want to make bogey. I mean, he was beating me by four with four holes to go, so I was just happy to be in that playoff.”

          Wille, who recently graduated from Edgerton High School and will play golf this fall at Iowa Central, shot 78-73–151. Swab shot 76-75–151. Cameron Frisch of Middleton finished third overall (80-76–156).

          Meantime, the 16-year-old Kauflin took a commanding seven-stroke lead into the finale after her fine round of 73 on Monday at Wild Rock, which included two birdies and an eagle. She closed with a 76 Tuesday at Trappers Turn to finish at 149, which was 10 strokes clear of overall runner-up Caylie Kotlowski of Stoughton (83-76–159). Grace Suter of Oconomowoc (80-82–162) finished third overall.

          “Today was a solid, almost boring, round of golf,” Kauflin said Tuesday. “I hit a lot of fairways and greens, and two-putted a lot of holes. It was a very steady day.”

          The highlight of Monday’s round at Wild Rock was Kauflin’s eagle on the par-5 10th hole, where she holed out from 68 yards with a sand wedge. Kauflin couldn’t see the hole from her place in the fairway, but she knew it went in when her dad and other greenside spectators reacted to the ball rolling into the cup.

          “That was really fun at that point in the round to kick-start things,” she said.

          Champions were also crowned Tuesday in age/gender categories.

          Tyson Sparks of Muskego won the Boys 12-13 age division after shooting 86-74–160. Luke Taebel of Holmen finished second with scores of 95-82–177.

          Kaeden Nomm of Minocqua birdied three of his final four holes Tuesday to earn medalist honors in the Boys 14-15 age division. Nomm shot 77 Tuesday to go with his 83 on Monday and finished at 160. Charlie Erlandson of Verona, who shot 85-80–165, finished second.

          Wille won the Boys 16-18 title over Swab to go along with his overall title.

          Girls competed in the Dells Junior Championship in two age groups.

Sarah Balding of Brookfield won the Girls 14-15 age division with scores of 82-85. Kailey White of Frankfurt, Ill., finished second, shooting 83-85–168.

          Kauflin won the Girls 16-18 category to go along with her overall title, followed by Kotlowski.

          The Dells Junior Championship, sponsored by American Family Insurance, is expected to be an annual event going forward.