Return of AmFam Championship provides lasting memories for golf fans

Smoltz

MADISON, Wis. – For the second day in a row, thousands of golf fans migrated to University Ridge Golf Course for day two of the AmFam championship Saturday.

It’s been phenomenal,” said Tournament Director Nate Pokrass. “It’s been a phenomenal week.”

Pokrass and other event leaders had just months to plan, after announcing the event would return in April. This meant certain limitations, like no bleacher seating. Pokrass said fans were unphased by the changes.

“Our fans are truly enjoying themselves, bringing their own lawn chairs, finding all of the great mounds in the hills all around the tees in the greens,” he said. “It’s been outstanding. All of our fans are coming with smiles on their faces. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have them on site.”

Dane County’s lack of COVID-19 restrictions meant in most ways, the event felt like it has in years past.

I was a little bit worried about what it was going to be with COVID restrictions, but it was actually a really great atmosphere,” said Mitch Brown, who attended the event with his nephew Blake. “The fans. The grounds are in immaculate shape. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

But it did get better for Brown, a Georgia native, who wore a John Smoltz jersey in anticipation of seeing the MLB Hall of Famer in action on the course. On the 10th hole, Smoltz himself took notice.

He spotted my Braves shirt, so he called us over and wanted to take a selfie with me,” Brown said. “My hand was shaking so bad, so he took the phone from me and then took the selfie of us three together. It just made my day.”

Other fans, like Mary Vander Ark, whose daughter Soni surprised her and her husband with tickets ahead of their 64th wedding anniversary Monday, were grateful to see life return to normal.

It’s the greatest just to see people’s faces without masks is a real treat,” Vander Ark said. “To be able to put on this spectacular event for the city of Madison and surrounding towns is just fantastic.”

Tickets for Sunday’s finale are still available. Attendance will cap at 7,500 people.

It just feels like the world is normal again,” Brown said. “To be able to spend this time with (my nephew Blake), in a world that was very uncertain just months ago, to be able to share this experience with him is unimaginable.”