Dynamics of the Hills

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Dynamics of the Hills

Erin Hills club house is where the golf team meets for practices and home tournaments.

Erin Hills club house is where the golf team meets for practices and home tournaments.

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Erin Hills club house is where the golf team meets for practices and home tournaments.

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Erin Hills club house is where the golf team meets for practices and home tournaments.

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Seven years ago, a change from Ozaukee Country Club to Erin Hills golf course shifts the dynamics of the Marquette University men’s golf program.

Just a half-hour northwest of Milwaukee, the course has a beautifully rugged yet serene landscape with farmland surrounding it.

Erin Hills has been open since 2006, but it isn’t until 2013 that Marquette can call the course home. Head coach Steve Bailey says it is a truly special opportunity for him and his players.

The relationship between Erin Hills and Marquette golf starts with a conversation between Bailey and Rich Tock, a former professional at Ozaukee Country Club. Tock made the switch to Erin Hills in 2009.

Tock is the catalyst in getting Erin Hills to be the team’s home course, along with competition director John Morrissett and owner Andy Ziegler.

“(Tock) had moved onto Erin Hills and was really eager to host a college event out there,” Bailey says. “(They) really got behind it and from there that sparked it and we’ve been fortunate,” Bailey says.

He says the moves is a “big carrot” for the program in terms of attracting other schools to the tournament.

Erin Hills hosted Wisconsin’s first-ever U.S. Open in 2017. Marquette uses that to its advantage, selling it to recruits considering Marquette and its opponents choosing between tournaments to attend.

“That’s really helped us in the recruiting world,” Bailey says. “The other thing it’s done for us is that it’s allowed us to build our tournament schedule. So many of the top teams want to come to play (here).”

Sophomore golfer Connor Brown, who is from California, says Erin Hills blew him away the first time he came to visit Marquette.

“It’s different coming from Los Angeles. You don’t see a land that size and courses with that much space,” Brown says. “The views are incredible.”

Junior golfer Hunter Eichorn has a similar reaction to seeing the course for the first time.

“I’ve loved Erin Hills ever since the first time I ever stepped on it,” Eichorn says. “It’s just such a massive piece of property and such a cool place to play. There are so many different shots you can play around there.”

Playing on the same course as some of the greatest players in the world changes the dynamic of the program, Bailey and his players say.

“We remind our guys all the time not to take it for granted,” Bailey says. “Not too many programs across the country get to play (at) a U.S. Open venue.”

Brown says being able to practice and spend time at Erin Hills is like competing at a professional level.

Bailey says the professional elements of such a challenging course provides the team with a championship-caliber test.

“It challenges all facets of (a golfer’s) game,” Bailey says. “It’s long and tough, especially if the wind blows out there, but (it) does a really good job of preparing us for our season and the year.”

Brown says it’s a fun opportunity to compare his performance to professionals who have also shot on the course.

Erin Hills is the host of the 2017 U.S. Open, the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur and 2025 U.S. Women’s Open.

Brown says the other challenge of playing at Erin Hills is the inconsistent weather conditions. He was not expecting the weather to be the toughest part of playing at the course.

“It was a completely different course (each time), that’s what I love about it,” Brown says. “It’s one of those courses that can play so differently depending on the weather. Getting as many reps out there as possible is pretty important.”

Erin Hills continues to improve its practice facilities. The course has cabins on-site where the team can stay for retreats.

The course also has a caddie barn that includes ping-pong tables, darts, and TVs, which makes Erin Hills more than just a golf course for the Golden Eagles.

“It’s a really cool place to hang out,” Brown says. “When we go over there, they treat you like a king. We’ve all got our own bedrooms. … It’s a blast.”

Bailey says the relationship between Marquette and Erin Hills has been getting stronger as each season passes by.

“It’s been a great relationship, they do a phenomenal job of hosting. We’ll continue (to play) there as long as they’ll have us,” Bailey says. “We’re very thankful for the opportunity to play there.”

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