Excerpted from Wisconsin Golf, Summer 1991
written by Jerry Poling, Edited and Updated Jan. 2001 by Bill Rolland

If you know something about Wisconsin golf, the names Don Iverson, Andy North, Greg Dick, Dick Bull, and Larry Tiziani should be familiar to you. Their places in state golfing history are secure. Yet all these players are linked together by more than recognition at the state level. They are part of a unique golfing fraternity of sorts. They are all former star players in the Chippewa Valley Golf Association (CVGA). Now in its 43rd year, the CVGA is made up of West Central Wisconsin clubs that put on a series of open tournaments from May through September.

Some of the best amateurs and pros from Wisconsin, Minnesota, North and South Dakota and other states annually follow the CVGA tour because of its solid competition. They have done so week after week, year after year since 1958. The prize money ranges from $200 to $1000 for first place.

 

The CVGA is like a mini tour. "It's unique in the state.", says Tony Coleman, a native of Chippewa Falls, who is the former executive director of the Wisconsin P.G.A.. "The CVGA helped me develop my competitive edge and it lead me to a career in golf." Jim Julsrud, Professional at the Eau Claire Golf and Country Club, stated that anywhere from 10-20 CVGA entrants each week are state level players. "I think the level of play is real good. There are an awful lot of fine players that come out of the CVGA and do well in state competition."

Don Iverson, the LaCrosse , WI native who had a successful career on the P.G.A. tour, won that 1965 CVGA Tournament of Champions at Bloomer, WI as a youngster. Andy North, of Wisconsin, winner of two US Opens, once played in the Hallie Open finishing 4th, where his father is still the teaching pro. Larry Tiziani played the CVGA in the early 1970's while attending the University of Minnesota, winning the 1973 CVGA Tournament of Champions.

The list of CVGA stars that distinguish themselves on the state level doesn't stop there. Eau Claire native, Greg Dick, Grew up in the CVGA and went on to win the State Amateur (1980) and the State Open (1984). He is the Director of Golf and co-owner of the Tanglewood Resort in Potsboro, TX. Dr. Dave Farley, Formerly of River Falls, WI, played the CVGA in 1983 and also won the W.S.G.A Match Play in 1981. Former Chippewa Falls Elks Club Pro, Roy Abermeit, was the hottest golfer in the state in 1979 when he won the P.G.A. Match Play, the P.G.A. Medal Play and the CVGA Player of the Year. He also won the State Open in 1980.

The CVGA has seen many of the state's top names, going back even to Tom Puls, the 1962 State Open Champion, who still is a top competitor in the CVGA.

In recent years, players such as 3 time winner of the Tournament of Champions, Leif Carlson, and Greg Murphy and George Smith, past winners of the Tournament of Champions are all from Minnesota. They play regularly and look forward to another competitive CVGA season every year.

The CVGA's roots date back to the 1930's but was born as a formal organization on May 15, 1958 by Bill Rolland, then head pro at the Elks Club in Chippewa Falls, WI. Eight pros and owners were called together by Rolland to create and organize a tournament schedule so conflicts would not happen between golf courses. Members at the meeting were Art Tangen of Hallie, Abby Fehr of Hillcrest, Gordy Hetzel of Bloomer, Jack Richards of Ladysmith, Pete Witkowski Sr. of Chetek, Bill Amthor of Menomonie, and George Fautch of Eau Claire Golf and Country Club. Out of that meeting a sound foundation was formed for tournament golf. In 1961, while a Professional at Hillcrest Country Club in Eau Claire, Bill Rolland founded the CVGA Tournament of Champions. This tournament is an invitational tournament that culminates the CVGA season. Rolland has been the CVGA Secretary and Tournament Director ever since and has been credited with the longevity of the organization.

Rolland states that many people have contributed their time and talent to the CVGA. The late Art Tangen, longtime pro at Hallie, put together a point system in 1975 which is used today to select our Player of the Year. Frank Keyes, longtime CVGA President and owner of Whispering Pines Golf Course in Cadott, WI has put many hours into CVGA meetings. What makes the CVGA a strong organization is the generosity of each golf club and their pros that give up their courses on weekends during the summer to help promote tournament golf. Rolland also noted that offering tournament golf to our juniors and flite players provides our championship flight with players in the future.

Bill Rolland would like to personally thank all of the officers of the CVGA for their time and efforts and a special thank you to Bill Wachtendonk for his work in creating this website that keeps us all up to date!


 

Bill Rolland never believed he'd stick with the Chippewa Valley Golf Association this long. Now that he's leaving, others can't imagine what it will be like with out him.

Rolland, who helped found the CVGA in 1958 and served as its tournament director and secretary, recently announced his resignation.

"It was time," he said. "It was flat-out time to step aside."

Rolland's resignation comes at a crossroads of sorts for the organization, which has dealt with declining participation in its opens the signature events Rolland tirelessly helped grow and a change in leadership.

Frank Kyes, owner of Whispering Springs Golf Course in Cadott, stepped down as president, a position he held since 1975. He'll be replaced by Chuck Wagner, Ojibwa Golf & Bowl.

As for Rolland's position, Wagner said it's going to take several people to replace all the work he did.

"The organization definitely wanted to thank him for all his ground work," Wagner said. "Hopefully, we can maintain the tradition and move forward."

A proud history

Rolland was instrumental in developing the CVGA into one of the premier circuts not just in the state or the  Midwest, but the entire nation.

It was the envy of golfers everywhere.

"People were looking at us," Rolland said. "We had lot of recognition from other areas of the nation. At one time, a pro from San Francisco wanted to start a program like we had."

The reason was because of the opens, the weekly events hosted by golf courses around the area. Rolland had to convince the courses to give up a day or two in the summer, but he'd take care of all the logistics.

"It was an interesting circumstance with how it grew and grew and grew," Rolland said. "Every year I saw improvements and was confident in the direction it was going."

The golfers playing in the events weren't exactly weekend warriors either.

Andy North, Tom Lehman and Don Iverson were among the golfers to play in the CVGA who also participated in the PGA.

"To watch it grow like it did when we were getting 120 players in some of our opens, players like Andy North, Tom Lehman, Don Iverson ... all these guys went on to make a big career," Rolland said. "That was a remarkable thing."

Rolland also started the Tournament of Champions, a year-end event held at either Hillcrest Country Club or the Eau Claire Golf and Country Club. In the 1980s and 90s, it used to be televised locally.

"That was a lot of fun," Kyes said. "We always had the sponsors invitational on Friday that we got to go to.

"We spent a lot of time together over the years."

Rolland said the success of the Tournament of Champions is what he's most proud of during his time with the CVGA.

A full-time job

Throughout the years, Rolland never complained about giving up weekend after weekend in the summer for what amounted to be an unpaid full-time job.

"Not many people are going to put over 50 years work into this," Rolland said.

He said he loved the camaraderie with the golfers Rolland played in the events himself and will remember the times he shared with them after the events in the clubhouse as much as he will on the course.

Rolland was quick to give credit to his wife, Beth, who he met as a pro at Hillcrest Country Club in 1960 and was always at his side throughout the tournaments.

"To do this job, you had to have a wonderful wife," Rolland said.

Beth never left her husband's side even as she battled dementia, which has now forced her into a facility in Menomonie.

"The last two years she went to every tournament with me," Rolland said. "The golfers were great. They'd introduce themselves to her every time. They were great with her."

Caring for his wife is another reason why Rolland had to step away from his duties with the CVGA.

"When he did resign, he said I have to get back to my life it's changing so much,'" Kyes said. "He's paid his dues."

The CVGA's future

Even though he's no longer the tournament director, Rolland is concerned about the future of the CVGA.

The seniors and flights tournaments are still  popular and successful, and the juniors events will have a new director this season 25-year-old John Pozarski.

But the opens are in trouble.

Participation, especially among younger golfers, is down. The golfers in the opens are primarily from Minnesota and may grow tired of travelling long distances to compete in the tournaments.

"I feel disappointed in the sense that I am leaving, it's going to be hard for me to figure out what I'm going to do," he said. "I'll give them the help they need when they need it. If it meant that leaving the organization and it would collapse I probably wouldn't have done it."

The board of directors is forming a plan to run the opens. It's obvious they'll never find another Bill Rolland to take it over.

"I think it's going to involve a lot more outreach," Wagner said. "It's going to involve a lot more networking."

Both Wagner and Kyes said they hope to work closely with UW-Stout's golf management program to see if there's anyone interested in getting real-world experience in running a tournament circuit. 

"It's not going to be easy to replace Bill," Kyes said. "He meant a lot to the organization."

 


 

Bill Rolland's address is:

1507 Hillsdale Road
Eau Claire, Wi 54703