For most youth golfers in Columbia County hoping to hone their skills out of season, a trip down to Madison is usually the best option.
Dr. Stephen Paulk is giving those eager young players a chance to improve closer to home after recently founding the Pardeeville Golf Club.
“Our goal is to bring more golfers into the sport, and then to encourage them to go on to get better, and finally we’re hoping they’ll be on their high school team and really be ready to compete,” Paulk said.
An Iowa native, Paulk relocated to Portage in 1995 to practice medicine as a surgeon. He recently retired after 25 years in the medical field, and wanted to shake the rust off his own clubs.
“I really got my golfing experience after I got out of my surgery training and I was only able to do it for a couple years because my practice got so busy,” he said. “So I’ve taken about 25 years off, but I just retired and I wanted to get back into it, offering youngsters a chance to participate and practice year round.”
Paulk was ultimately introduced to Pardeeville prep boys golf coach Mitch Beckett and expressed how he wanted to begin a golf club. The two hit it off and knowing that Beckett’s offseason involvement with Bulldogs athletes is limited by WIAA rules, Paulk got to work and began putting things together.
After about six weeks, with Beckett helping as a consultant, Paulk launched the Pardeeville Golf Club. Based out of Pardeeville due to the town’s initial strong interest, Paulk said the club is hoping to include golfers from both the Rio and Poynette schools, as well as Portage, if they’re interested.
Along with the strong interest in the community, Paulk and Beckett have received an outpouring of support from the local courses and a local businessman.
Paulk said the Portage Country Club, Saddle Ridge Golf Club and Wild Rock Golf Course are all offering space for the club while their facilities are open. Portage Country Club pro Mark Braska and Wild Rock Golf Course pro Josh Glendenning have also agreed to join Paulk as assistant coaches during the winter.
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While not a golf professional himself, Paulk said over his career, “because I didn’t really have time to practice,” he has taken a number of lessons from many pros. Among those he has worked with is professional coach Mike Bender, who worked extensively with 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson.
As for space to practice during the winter, Paulk said Portage businessman Rick Lind has donated an indoor facility for the club to use in downtown Portage.
Even with the indoor space, Paulk said one of the club’s main problems is that “in all these small schools, most of these athletes are in another sport.” While the coed club is primarily focused on high school players, if slots are available, the club will open up to both seventh- and eighth-graders.
Coupled with their resources and facilities, Paulk believes the Pardeeville Golf Club “might be the best equipped team in Wisconsin.” Among the group’s gear is radar tracking from TrackMan, one of the foremost ball, flight and club data measurement services.
According to Paulk, the Pardeeville Golf Club is the first high school level team in the entire state to own a TrackMan, something that is owned by 88 of the top-100 professional golfers.
The device can track club speed, attack angle, ball speed and launch angle among a bevy of interchangeable statistics that can be tracked in real time, offering opportunities for immediate correction.
“I’m just really getting back into the game so I can play and practice, and of course just like the young golfers, I’m back learning about it and starting to use the TrackMan device to help my game along,” Paulk said.
With its state-of-the-art equipment, Paulk said “it would be fantastic if we can take these kids, get them to be good to great golfers, and be winners,” potentially competing against other clubs teams from around the state in meets during the summer and fall.
The Pardeeville Golf Club will be meeting this Sunday at the Portage Country Club driving range at 4 p.m. Paulk said that the group is currently working on developing a website, and if anyone is interested in joining or has any questions, they should email firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost to join the club is $25, which covers additional equipment and pays for greatly discounted range and greens fees.