By Jason Kauflin
On August 16, the first ever Irwin Cup was staged at The Jewel Golf Club in Lake City, Minnesota. The event brought together junior golfers from The First Tee chapters in Wisconsin and Minnesota, pitting them against each other in a Ryder Cup-style format. Each team consisted of eight junior golfers: two boys and two girls from both 12-14 and 15-18 age divisions. Team Wisconsin was represented by juniors from the Southeast, South Central, and Northeast chapters. Team Minnesota was represented by the Twin Cities and Three Rivers Park District chapters. Juniors were paired together to face off against a duo from the opposing state and played three separate 6-hole matches each worth one point. When all the scores were added up, Team Wisconsin came out ahead 7-1/2 to 4-1/2 to win the inaugural Irwin Cup.
The genesis of the Irwin Cup can be traced back to the 2016 Ryder Cup held at Hazeltine Golf Club in Minnesota. Glenn Hasse had been a Trustee of The First Tee since 2010 and was looking to give back. Along with his wife, Kay, Glenn bought The Jewel in 2008 during some dire financial straits for the course. Finding an event to combine his wonderful property with supporting today’s young golfers was a natural fit. “I was looking for something to utilize the course and something for the young kids in The First Tee,” Mr. Hasse explains, “after all, competition like this is what it’s all about.” During the 2016 Ryder Cup, Glenn approached some of his contacts at The First Tee about hosting an event at his “little place just down the street.” Once momentum for the event began to build, naming the competition became paramount. As the original course designer and a junior golf supporter in his own right, the legendary Hale Irwin was asked to lend his name to the event. Hale was more than happy to assist, and the Irwin Cup was born.
The event was truly a family affair. Parents from both states followed each group, and a post round awards lunch was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Hasse. Glenn thanked all the families in attendance and presented each member of the winning team with a medal, while Kay was busy manning the lemonade stand at the end of the buffet line. Also on hand for the event was Jen Weiler, Sr. Vice President Chief Development Officer for The First Tee. “We really want to promote regional events like this because it does give kids that competition that they might lack just at the chapter level,” Jen said. She also enjoyed seeing the kids from different areas creating quick bonds as they competed together. “They probably have exchanged cell phone numbers and Instagram handles to keep in touch with each other. I love seeing that, I think it’s just great!”
Plans for the 2018 Irwin Cup are already underway. One goal in mind would be to move the Irwin Cup as close to the 3M Championship as possible. That way they may be able to involve Hale Irwin and other PGA Tour Champion players who are supporters of The First Tee. Glenn Hasse also hopes to expand the event to four states, with teams from Iowa and the Dakotas joining the fray. He would love to see regional The First Tee events established where a team would have to qualify to make it to the Irwin Cup. “We could have some regional competitions, and whoever is the best in that area gets to come,” says Glenn. As Kay Hasse added, “Sounds good to me!”