HARTFORD, Wis. - Inspiration can come from anywhere at any time. For one Wisconsin golfer competing in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, his came at Erin Hills Golf Course well before playing there.
"It’s pretty cool how special they make the whole thing, make you feel like you’re pretty important and you’re part of a pretty big event," said Sam Van Galder.
Just an hour or so away from his home in Janesville, Van Galder was able to live a dream at Erin Hills.
"My family was able to come out the other day and watch," Van Galder said.
They were watching Van Galder compete in the U.S. Mid-Am, his first USGA national championship as a player. As a fan, he’s had some previous experiences.
"I’ve been to a U.S. Open and have been to a Ryder Cup," said Van Galder.
That U.S. Open was at Erin Hills in 2017, and it wasn’t just the golf that captured his imagination and shaped his future.
"The big tent was over here, and I walked in and I remember right when you walk in that big poster was there, and I’m like, ‘Dang, that was like, Hole 18,’" Van Galder said. "You got the clubhouse. You got Holy Hill in the background. It’s just a really cool design and something that I thought was interesting."
It was artist Lee Wybranski’s official poster for the U.S. Open that caught Van Galder’s eye and struck a chord inside him.
"It was just very, kind of, inspirational for me to see how you can combine, maybe, two passions into one," said Van Galder.
Van Galder’s also an artist and teaches the subject at Parker High School.
The USGA shared that with Wybranski at his home studio.
"I like thinking of my work as being part of a mosaic like that," said Wybranski. "And I think that as someone who views their work that way, there’s nothing more honoring, more flattering than to have your work than ripple out through a teacher like Sam, which is really wonderful."
Just before the Mid-Am began, the USGA was able to connect the two.
"Lee sent me a nice good luck message, and that was pretty cool," Van Galder said. "So one day, maybe we can cross paths and share some ideas and see what goes on."
"I should probably take some inspiration for my golf game from his," Wybranski said. "We could make this a two-way street."
They now share something else, as Van Galder put his pencil and brush to paper for this championship.
"The USGA reached out, and they just wanted something to post online," said Van Galder. "It’s part of who’s playing in the event, so that was really cool of them to ask me to do that."
"For me to be out in Wisconsin at Erin Hills painting for the U.S. Open in 2017, and then for Sam to be painting the work of Erin Hills for the ’22 Mid-Am, I mean, you really can’t make this kind of stuff up," said Wybranski. "It’s really special. It’s really unique, and it’s like, a gift of the game."
It's one that will continue to give into the future.
"I’m just going to take it day by day, seeing who you meet and where it takes you and having fun with it," Van Galder said.
Because of what he saw in Wybranski's work, Van Galder now creates paintings of golf courses.
The two are hoping to get together at some point in the future.