Wisconsin golf fans aren't easily impressed, even at the PGA Championship

Wisconsin golf fans aren’t easily impressed, even at the PGA Championship

Big hitters like Dustin Johnson were some of the few players to hear roars from fans at Whistling Straits.
Fred Vuich/SI

SHEBOYGAN, Wis. — If Missouri is the Show Me State, then Wisconsin must be the Show Me Something Really Good State, at least when it comes to professional golf.

The fans who attended the 92nd PGA Championship this week at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis., have been exemplary. They persevered through fog delays and rain storms and have been admirably respectful and courteous to players and fellow spectators alike. (Phil Mickelson isn’t often addressed as “Mr. Mickelson” by autograph-seeking fans.) But when it comes to applauding shots, these Wisconsin fans have been positively stingy.

Maybe it’s that famous Midwestern reserve, but the only way players could elicit a lively cheer from the fans at Whistling Straits was to almost hole their approach shots or drive the ball 350 yards. (Fans at majors are generally more profligate with their applause, and rowdier fans at regular Tour stops have been known to cheer Tiger Woods after he emerges from a Port-O-Potty.)

Jon Tattersall, a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher and coach of PGA Tour player Heath Slocum, noticed that Whistling Straits was unusually quiet for a major while walking the course with Slocum’s group on Friday.

“We were on the par-3 seventh, 229 yards with the flag back right about four feet from the edge and the wind off to the right,” Tattersall said. “Heath hit it dead straight and it landed 15 feet left of the pin and rolled to the back of the green. It was a spectacular shot, and it didn’t get a ripple (of applause).”

Tattersall added that some of the hole placements were so difficult that players would be foolish to go after them.

“A lot of times, if a guy hits it close to one of those holes, it was a mistake,” Tattersall said.

Not that Wisconsin fans don’t love their golf. Bob Uecker, legendary Brewers broadcaster and patron saint of Milwaukee sports, said that when it comes to golf, Wisconsinites know their stuff. Uecker himself is an avid player, getting on the course as much as he can in Arizona during the offseason. Uecker recently returned to the broadcast booth after heart surgery in late April, and he’s already begun chipping and putting.

“It’s a great place for golf,” Uecker said, listing Whistling Straits and Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open, among the gems in the region.

Especially if you like the more serene aspects of the game. Tattersall recounted Slocum’s tee shot on the par-3 17th, the picturesque 220-yarder that plays uphill over fescue with Lake Michigan off to the left. Slocum hit a hybrid off the tee in the rain on Friday, and neither Slocum nor Tattersall saw it land. The fans around the green were as quiet as a funeral.

“We looked at each other and thought, ‘Bunker?'” Tattersall said. “We got to the green and saw Heath’s ball 15 feet right of the hole.”

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