Graduates Pirkl, Kraus witness industry impacts
Two GEM alumni who now are industry professionals in Wisconsin, Geoff Pirkl of the Wisconsin State Golf Association and Abigail Kraus of Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, are excited to be part of a vibrant state industry.
“In Wisconsin, we have seen exponential growth in the game. From the association level, our membership numbers and tournament participation have seen a steady increase each year for the past three years and are projected to continue climbing,” said Pirkl.
Pirkl, a Stoughton native who played on the Blue Devils golf team, graduated in 2009. He is director of rules and competitions for the WSGA, in charge of the complex process of scheduling and conducting dozens of tournaments at courses around the state each year.
“I truly believe that the future looks promising for the game. It just depends on what avenue individuals want to get into within golf. The job market is there and should continue to be there in the future,” he added.
Kraus, who in addition to her GEM degree earned a hotel, restaurant and tourism management degree, is golf sales manager for the 36-hole Grand Geneva in Lake Geneva, a course that draws about half of its customers from nearby Illinois.
“Our golf courses are close to if not sold out every Friday and Saturday, and our weekdays are full of company and charity golf outings. Golf is the added bonus to tourism,” Kraus said, adding that business boomed during COVID and has remained strong.
Kraus, a Wisconsin native from Cambridge who played for the Blue Devils for four years, previously was tournament director at Grand Geneva. “Now I use my knowledge of golf and hospitality to book the annual 250 golf groups that come and enjoy our 36 holes of golf,” she said.
Pirkl and Kraus are far from the only graduates impacting play around Wisconsin. The GEM program has produced many others, including currently Jacob James, pro shop manager at Christmas Mountain Village; Ryan Glodowski, assistant pro at Sand Valley; Sam Ohnesorge, food and beverage director at Erin Hills; David Bach, assistant pro at Whistling Straits; Robert Leist, associate director of golf and lodging at Erin Hills; Alexa Filipiak, merchandiser at North Shore Country Club; Indiana Thompson, owner of Pine Crest near Dallas in Barron County; and Aaron Saari, first assistant pro at SentryWorld.