Wisconsin golf scene exploding with high-profile development

By Matt GinellaFebruary 27, 2014, 6:24 am

As natural selection of American golf courses, architects and owners continues to identify the thrivers and survivors, one man continues to strap on his boots every day and goes to work. Having recently caught up with one of the most influential minds in the modern era of golf and architecture, I simply asked Pete Dye, 88, “What have you been up to lately?”

“I have a few projects I’m working on,” he said, as he took a break from a meeting at his home in Florida. His wife, Alice, had answered and passed the phone: “It’s the guy from the Golf Channel,” she said. And then she barked: “You can take the call, but not in here, go to your office.”

Pete Dye’s busy, but he’s not in charge. Not at home. Although in Sheboygan, Wisc., Herb Kohler has asked Dye to assess a piece of property that would be used for the fifth course at the American Club, of which the first four are all Dye designs.

“In my mind, he’s clearly the strongest living architect,” is what Kohler once told me about Dye. And according to Dye, Kohler might be close to “pulling the trigger” on what appears to be a response to Mike Keiser, owner of Bandon Dunes, moving in on Kohler’s turf.

Video: Ginella talks golf developments in Wisconsin, Michigan

Kohler already has Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, both of which have hosted major championships. And after looking all over the world for more property to develop into courses and resorts, including the southwest coast of Oregon - down the street from Keiser’s Bandon Dunes - Kohler’s now looking into developing his own backyard. “Herb’s been sitting on this property for years,” said Dye. “There would be four holes along Lake Michigan. I wish I could have more along the water. That’s always the case. I wish I could have six.”

And the retail golfer wishes it could be 16, but some is better than none.

Dye has built 81 courses in his decorated career, which includes the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, TPC Sawgrass and Harbour Town. “I’m too dumb,” he said. “I’ve actually gone out and built them all myself.” Which is exactly what Kohler appreciates about Dye. That he gets the man he hires, on property, shaping and making the decisions that go into building a golf course.

No one from Kohler’s camp returned multiple attempts for comment, but Keiser welcomed the idea of Kohler adding a fifth course to the American Club. “I’d be a fan,” said Keiser, who told me he plans on building three courses in the next eight years at the Wisconsin development he’s calling Sand Valley, located near Wisconsin Rapids, two and a half hours from Kohler. The first of Keiser’s courses will be built by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Preview play could be as soon as the summer of 2016.

“I’ve always loved golf in Michigan,” said Keiser. “But if it was close as to which state has better golf, it sounds like the nod is about to go to Wisconsin.”


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Mike Keiser's Sand Valley development will be located northwest of Erin Hills and Kohler. 


Meanwhile, Andy Ziegler, owner of Erin Hills, which will host the U.S. Open in 2017, will undoubtedly draft off the buzz of more golf in the area. Erin Hills is an hour from Kohler and a little more than two hours from Wisconsin Rapids.

“If you love golf, who wouldn’t want it?" said Ziegler. "Both have proven they know what they’re doing. It would be good for Erin Hills, but it would be great for golf in general.”

Asked if he would be inspired to add a second course, Ziegler said no. “We have land that resembles what we used for Erin Hills, but business is working well the way it is.” He said they’re considering adding holes, but he likes the idea of a short course or a par 3 course. “I like what they have at Pine Valley and Augusta National,” said Ziegler, who will add a fourth four-bedroom cottage at Erin Hills this summer.

As the Midwest endures one of the worst winters in over a century, the Wisconsin turf beneath the snow is becoming increasingly attractive to avid amateurs all over the world. And who in the industry wouldn’t want to see the partnership of Kohler and Dye ride again. Except for maybe Alice.

“Every time I do something, she tells me I’ve done it wrong,” said Dye.

“What do you say?” I asked.

“I tell her, ‘You’re right.’”

For a guy who told me he’s “too dumb,” Dye’s pretty smart.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.



The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”



Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.


Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.