With help from Midwestern PGA Tour professionals Steve Stricker, Zach Johnson and Mark Wilson, Eric Hjortness has put together quite an event.
Hjortness, a former Wisconsin State Match Play champion, is the founder of the Midwest Cup, an amateur event that brings together some of the top players from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, all with the hopes of raising money for the Evans Scholars Foundation.
Hjortness said the three Tour pros have pledged to be Gold Sponsors of the event, along with Culver’s restaurants.
“We are trying to make this a promotion of amateur golf,” Hjortness said. “We’re all players who have gotten a lot out of the game and the Evans Scholars Foundation is a great organization full of tremendous kids to give back to.
“They’re the type of kids where if you give them money, after they graduate, they give it back and keep the whole cycle working.”
Hjortness said one of the event’s requirements is that of each states’ 12 team members, no more than two players can be under 40 and at least two must be over 50.
Of the 48 competitors in this year’s event, 15 are state amateur champions, eight are Mid-Amateur winners and three have won Senior Amatuer titles in their state.
“We’re looking for amateur golfers, not amateurs waiting to turn pro,” he said.
Started 10 years ago as the Badger Cup, the event used to be an amateur competition between Wisconsin and Illinois, but this will be the first year that a four-state competition will be held. Since its inception, the annual tournament has raised more than $25,000 for the Evans Scholars, as well as provided winners with exemptions into some of the country’s top amateur events.
This year’s event will be hosted at Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, home of the Champions Tour’s Principal Charity Classic.
“Having a good course is such a bonus for this event,” said Hjortness. “If everything else goes wrong, these guys still have two days at a great course they might not otherwise have a chance to play.”
Hjortness said the event has become about much more than the players. It has now become a family event, as each player is now encouraged to bring their wives along for the weekend. While the men are playing golf, the women take the time to get to know each other and relax before gathering for a formal banquet after the tournament.
“One of the player’s wives had asked him for years why he kept coming to this event – you didn’t win any money and it was a long way away and everything,” Hjortness said. “But then we started inviting the wives and she had such a good time that after it was over she was pushing him to go out and practice and make sure he was invited back next year.”