EAU CLAIRE — Patrick Koenig’s work day started early Wednesday with a 7 a.m. appointment in Black River Falls.
After completing the four-hour commitment, he had just enough time to grab a bite to eat and make it to a 2 p.m. appointment in Eau Claire.
It was just another long day at the office for Koenig, who is sweating out a grueling summer internship in Wisconsin.
But before anyone feels sorry for Koenig, it should be known that his duties entail playing 50 rounds of golf in 50 days at courses across Wisconsin.
Yes, he is getting paid to play golf at some of the finest courses in the United States, along with many traditional public courses — requirements that are definitely not par for the course in most jobs.
It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it, and the Wisconsin State Golf Association decided Koenig was the right guy for the task, which it calls “America’s #1 Golf Internship.” The duties also include taking photos of the state’s gorgeous golf landscapes and posting about the experience on social media.
“When I first heard about it, I was like, ‘Am I too old to be an intern?’ Koenig, 41, said Wednesday morning between nines at Skyline Golf Course in Black River Falls. “But then I thought, ‘They are paying you to play golf, which is sort of the holy grail of jobs,’ so I applied.”
Not surprisingly, he wasn’t the only one determined not to miss their shot. The WSGA received hundreds of applications for the internship, which is funded by the organization with help from a grant from the state Department of Tourism and donated rounds by participating courses.
Ultimately, Koenig, of Laguna Beach, California, and Madison native Bobbi Stricker, 22, stood out among applicants from 25 states.
“The response to America’s #1 Golf Internship has been beyond anything we expected,” said WSGA executive director Rob Jansen. “Bobbi and Patrick both have such a passion for the game and for Wisconsin golf that we couldn’t pick just one, so we hired them both.”
Hiring Koenig was a no-brainer because he is one of the nation’s top professional golf photographers and brings 88,000 Instagram followers and unique experience to the role, said Jansen, who dreamed up the internship concept as a fresh way to generate buzz about Wisconsin as a premier golf destination.
Koenig, who carries about a two handicap, left a career in sales in 2018 to buy a recreational vehicle to tour the country playing golf while raising money for the youth golf program First Tee. During what he labeled the Recreational Golf Vehicle Tour, Koenig spent a year on the road, playing 405 different golf courses across the country. At the end of his tour he presented a $20,000 check to First Tee in Seattle.
Stricker brought her own social media, photography and golf prowess to the job after graduating in May with a degree in journalism from UW-Madison, where she was a top player on the women’s golf team. She tied for 24th at the Big Ten Championship her senior year and was a 2021 Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.
After hearing about the internship from her coach, Stricker laughed about the idyllic nature of the job at first but then decided to apply along with a teammate. She was thrilled to get hired for an abbreviated version of the tour involving playing 15 of the state’s top courses as she prepares to pursue a professional golf career. She has completed nine of the rounds so far.
“It’s an honor, honestly. It’s like one of the coolest gigs I’ve ever heard of if you’re a golf person,” said Stricker, whose father, Steve Stricker, is a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour and captain of the United States team for this year’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Kohler. “There are so many great public courses in the state that I’d heard about, and now I’m getting to experience them for myself.”
Koenig’s golf odyssey began July 15 at Brown Deer Park Golf Course in Milwaukee, and he closed in on the halfway point of his tour with a round Wednesday afternoon at Wild Ridge Golf Course in Eau Claire. An overachiever, Koenig is hoping to play at least 60 courses over the 50 days by adding some 36-hole days, such as Wednesday, to his work days.
“It does get to be a grind when doing 36 a day, but somehow I manage,” he joked, adding that he doesn’t dare seek sympathy from anyone.
Some employees are always sacrificing for the job.
In all seriousness, Koenig said friends tell him he is living the dream, and he doesn’t disagree, maintaining his internship is “better than 99.9% of jobs out there.”
“I enjoy it so much. I am playing golf for a living essentially and taking a few photos,” said Koenig, who is donating photos of each of the courses he plays, including some aerial drone shots, to the owners for potential marketing.
The only down side of the job so far, other than the occasional bogey, is that hazy conditions recently as a result of smoke blowing over the state from Canadian wildfires have made it more difficult to capture the beauty of Wisconsin golf courses in photos.
Koenig is happy to help promote golf in Wisconsin, which he called “the best state for public golf in the United States.”
Wisconsin is home to 10 top-100 public golf courses according to Golf Digest: Whistling Straits — Straits and Irish courses, Erin Hills, Sand Valley, Mammoth Dunes, Blackwolf Run — Meadow Valleys and River courses, Lawsonia Links, SentryWorld and Troy Burne in Hudson. Wisconsin also landed nine courses on Golfweek’s recently released list of top-100 public courses in the United States.
While Koenig, who grew up playing public courses, looks forward to putting on those immaculately manicured greens, he also hopes to highlight a number of Wisconsin’s hidden gems — courses with lower green fees that are more accessible to the average golfer.
“The journey gets interesting when you go to places that not everybody goes,” he said. “That’s where the adventure lies and where the stories start.”