With plenty of quality golf courses in the Lake Geneva area, it is no surprise that the region is home to many good golfers. However, for the last couple of years, one has stood out from the pack.
After playing casually for most of his life, Lake Geneva resident Cory Aune has dedicated the last couple of years to improving his game and playing on the state’s amateur golf circuit.
Aune’s abilities are not just the stuff of local legend; his work has paid off on the course, as he posted impressive finishes throughout this spring and summer, culminating in a trip to compete in one of the country’s most illustrious amateur events — the U.S. Mid-Amateur Golf Championship.
Other golfers in the area have taken notice.
“Around this area, I’m a decent golfer,” frequent golfing partner Doug Miller said. “But his skill set is so much above the average golfer, you can’t even measure it.”
Ever since he was seven years old, Aune has enjoyed the sport. But it was not until his late 20s that he really started to focus on being as good as he can be. Despite his busy schedule of raising a family and running the Elkhorn restaurant Sperino’s Little Italy, Aune has spent much of his free time hitting the links.
With that increased time investment, he has been able to grow from a good golfer to one of the best in the state.
“When I met him, he was good,” Miller said. “But now it’s a different level. He almost never misses a shot. I don’t know if you play golf, but it’s hard not to do that.”
Along the way, Aune has had impressive finishes in tournaments across the state, whether it be the Wisconsin State Open or the annual Ray Fischer Championship. However, this year he took the next step in his career.
On Aug. 14, Aune traveled to Glen Ellyn, Illinois, to the Village Links of Glen Ellyn to compete in a qualifying event for the U.S. Mid-Amateur. Out of a field of 81 golfers, only the top four would advance to the Mid-Am.
Sure enough, Aune shot a one-under par 71 and placed fourth to punch his ticket to the main event in Colorado. After earning a spot as an alternate by placing fourth in a 2018 qualifying event with two spots up for grabs, to take a step forward and make the field outright was a big moment for him.
Oddly enough, Aune did not think he played the best round of his life in the qualifier.
“I’m not going to say I played great golf, but I played solid and scored better than I played and was able to secure a spot,” Aune said.
For many golfers, shooting a 71 would be a once-in-a-lifetime performance. So for that to be just an above-average day for Aune says a lot about his game.
“A lot of guys, when they start having a great day, weird thoughts start creeping in like, ‘Oh, don’t mess it up; don’t make a mistake,’” Miller said. “Everyone else is like, ‘Don’t blow it.’ And he slams on the gas.”
By qualifying, Aune became the only Wisconsin native in the 262-man field. Instead of being surrounded by the familiar faces of the local amateur circuit, Aune was off to Colorado to compete alongside golfers from across the country.
He was not totally alone, though, as he brought along one of his local golfing friends, Nathan Boltz, to serve as his caddy for the Mid-Amateur tournament rounds. While Boltz admits that he is not quite on Aune’s skill level, being someone to bounce ideas off of is a valuable asset to have.
“Sometimes it’s nice to be reassured in certain situations with your choices,” Boltz said. “I’m sure it was nice for him to have me there as somebody to talk to.”
Boltz’s presence also gave Aune something to take his mind off of golf for a bit, as the two palled around Denver, including a trip to see the Colorado Rockies baseball team.
On the links, Aune had to adjust to the unfamiliar playing conditions and facing a course that was firmer and faster than any he had played before, as well as acclimating to the higher altitude, which caused the ball to fly farther than in the Midwest. When you toss in the difficult pin placements the United States Golf Association set up on the greens, it was one of the highest difficulty events Aune has played in.
On the leaderboard, Aune shot a 78 both days of the two-day event held in Parker and Aurora, Colorado, which set him up in a tie for 179th place to miss the cut to advance to the 64-man playoff. However, Aune was not disappointed in his play.
“I was proud I never made worse than a bogey on a USGA set up,” Aune said. “I felt like I proved to myself that I belonged.”
With golf being a game in which one’s mental state is just as important as any physical abilities, Aune believes that sense of belonging will be an asset moving forward.
While qualifying events for the 2020 U.S. Mid-Amateur are still nearly a year away, Aune already has his eyes fixed on making it back.
“I’m chomping at the bit already to get to another one,” he said.