Ben Skogen had a very specific goal when he graduated from Onalaska High School and embarked on the adventure of playing golf at the University of Wisconsin.
Skogen was a WIAA Division 1 state champion as a sophomore, and he qualified for the state tournament four times with his worst finish being a tie for 11th place as a junior.
He was within five shots of the champion as a freshman and again as a senior. He shot 1-over-par at University Ridge Golf Course his sophomore year to earn his state title. That kind of success and the chance to play in the Big Ten Conference gave Skogen big hopes for the days following his career with the Badgers.
“My goal was to play professionally,” Skogen said.
A couple of tough seasons at Wisconsin were followed by better ones. Skogen saved his best play for last as he placed 10th at the Big Ten Conference championship tournament last week, but he said the life goal had changed by that point.
“I have another (full) year of school, and I decided not to pursue professional golf,” Skogen said. “I know a lot of people who have gone pro and know how hard it is to make it. You have to fully believe you can make it, and I wasn’t there anymore.”
Don’t take that to mean Skogen is down on golf or that he is heartbroken over the decision he made. He said he is just fine with pursuing other careers after completing his studies in life science communication and sociology.
He will just play the sport he loves on a different level.
“I’m going to have a lot of fun playing amateur tournaments,” Skogen said.
He’ll do that as a much better golfer than the one who arrived on the Wisconsin campus back in the fall of 2013 and one who feels pretty good about his game after helping the Badgers complete the season on a high note last weekend in Baltimore.
After never finishing higher than 55th in the Big Ten meet, Skogen put together two sub-par rounds to close out the tournament and led the Badgers by placing 10th at the Baltimore Country Club. His three-day score of 2-over 212 was seven strokes behind champion Dylan Meyer of Illinois (205).
Just as exciting to Skogen was the fact that a young Wisconsin team — Skogen is one of two seniors — placed seventh after finishing last among a field of 14 team in 2016. Sophomore teammate Jordan Hahn shot a 213 to anchor the effort behind Skogen.
“From an individual standpoint, it was cool to go out like that,” Skogen said. “I’d been doing well in qualifying rounds, but I wasn’t able to get everything to click in that tournament.
“From a team standpoint, we did a lot better this year. We were in third with three holes left before we fell back a little bit, but it was a great turnaround after what we did the year before.”
Skogen and fellow captain Eddie Wojda III — a three-time WIAA state qualifier who finished as high as second for Division 1 Brookfield Central — took younger players under their wings and offered encouragement and experience to help them grow as players.
“We showed them the way we thought things should be done,” Skogen said. “We didn’t want to be the team we were last year. We told them how hard we were all going to work and how we were going to play for each other.”
The plan paid off, and so did the work of Skogen, who finished with rounds of 1-under 69 and 2-under 68 after opening with a 75. Skogen credited his putting and the right mentality for the performance.
“I struggled in the first round, and then I started getting more confident with what I was doing,” he said. “I had to commit to every shot, and I did that.”
The finish allowed for another big ending to a college career for Skogen’s high school class.