Young players breathe new life into Women's County Am

ONALASKA, WI - Most people roll their eyes and utter a snide remark such as “Is that all? Wow! Why even have it?"
Yes, there are only 18 players entered in Saturday’s 22nd annual La Crosse County Women's Amateur Golf Championship as presented by Pepsi-Cola of La Crosse at the Golf Club at Cedar Creek in Onalaska.
While 18 total players is slim by any tournament standard, only 10 women entered last year, including only two in Championship Flight. Saturday's Championship Flight boasts eight players along with 10 in the Low Net Flight, two more than in 2019.
As director of the County Amateurs for 30 years, I admit 18 is a far cry from the very first Women's tournament in 1996, when a groundswell of 66 players proved they deserved a County Amateur as much as the full 200-player Men's County Amateur.
That was then and then is now, particularly for the women. Entries dropped steadily from the first year to 2011 when lack of player interest forced the County Am Board of Directors to suspend the event.
Young players begged for a restart, so the Board resumed the 18-hole tournament in 2013 with Alli Plath becoming a two-time champion.
This year's tournament has a nice mix of ages from 17 to 78.
The youngest, Amber Nguyen, from Onalaska, is playing in her first "adult tournament," she told me recently. Nguyen joins defending champion Annie Balduzzi, 19, and Sydney Hubbard, 21, in the final threesome.
Hubbard says Nguyen is a great reminder of the fresh new group of girls entering the field and the impact they will have on women's golf in the Coulee Region and beyond.
Hubbard, a two-time winner, is also pleased to see a 44 percent increase in total entries. It's a start.
"I am so happy to hear the numbers are up this year," she said. "What I love most about this tournament, and why I couldn't wait to play in it, is that it's a way for women of all ages to come together, appreciate golf and advocate for little girls in our community to pick up a club. I live for that."
Well said, Sydney.
Now if we could only get more recruiting help from high school golf coaches - both girls and boys.