HARTLAND -- Wisconsin is blessed to have some fine players on the pro-golf tour, and there could be a future legend coming up through the ranks, thanks, in part, to a local course owner.
The American Junior Golf Association's finest players came from all over the country and beyond to play the lush Legend at Bristlecone in Hartland last month. The Legend Clubs' owner, Jack Gaudion has opened his courses to the kids for the past eight seasons.
"We are supporting an organization that I fully believe in that started in 1978 out of a garage, and now it is the organization that drives junior golf in this country. It is the organization that's mission is to help kids in their goals to play golf," Gaudion said.
Gaudion has members who volunteer to shuttle and house players. He's also made sure that local players get the same experience as out-of-towners.
"This wasn't for me to find the next Tiger Woods to come in from California to try to play on my golf course. For me, it was the Wisconsin kid that didn't know about the AJGA. The Wisconsin kid that didn't know this is what they had to do. For the parents, the golf coach that didn't know this organization existed because their kids hadn't played it," Gaudion said.
Marquette senior Harrison Balistreri can hit a long three wood from his home to the course. He's one of 26 local players who competed in the AJGA event.
"It's so fantastic that our club can host a tournament of this caliber that I had the opportunity to play in. The AJGA is really the tour that colleges look at. That's really a factor as to why kids like myself play in this specific tournament," Balistreri said.
"I had a friend play in this last year. I was kinda jealous of him that he got to play in this. I was kind of on the outside of the ropes looking in, and I just thought I wanted to be in that position so badly," Owens said.
Another promising local player who took part in the AJGA Tourney is Hartland Arrowhead senior Connor Thiel who already has a couple of colleges down south looking at him for a possible scholarship. He says the challenge of playing a course such as the Legends at Bristlecone can only help, and he's thankful to all those who make it possible.
"They really appreciate having high school kids here, and we really appreciate them helping and volunteering for us. They spend most of their time just sitting there, scoring and timing for us when they could be at home doing other things with their kids or their husbands or wives," Thiel said.
"Jack Gaudion has been so kind to open up this course, and our members have been so kind to give up our course for a full week and come and volunteer to watch these junior kids come -- and this is what the future of our golfing is. It's these kids that are going to be our next generation as the AJGA says," Thiel's mother, Cindy Thiel said.
Seven of the young men and women who took part in the Future Legends event will continue their careers in college this fall.