RACINE — As always, Grant Wininger was methodical.
While breaking down a senior season to remember for the St. Catherine’s High School boys golf team Thursday afternoon, he dissected how he won the Racine County Invitational in sudden death and earned the Metro Classic Conference Player of the Year.
He talked about how he was moving on to the University of Kansas this fall — his grandfather, Thomas Everitt, lives near the campus — and how he hopes to eventually walk on to the Jayhawks’ golf team.
He reflected on being an only child and being best buddies with his dad, Carlton, a frequent golfing buddy while he was growing up.
But the best was yet to come.
When Wininger was asked to reveal something about himself that not many people realize, something not related to golf, he hesitated.
“Can I think about that for a minute?” he asked.
What Wininger revealed is that he likes to laugh. And with that revelation, the businesslike demeanor he had while being interviewed for this story made way for a gregarious side.
He started chuckling, from the jokes he and and his father trade at the dinner table, to tales about his beloved cat, Buster. He talked about his affinity for comedians Will Farrell, Jim Carrey, Seth Rogen and Kevin Hart.
How about The Three Stooges?
“Of course I like The Three Stooges!,” he said. “I like anyone who makes me laugh!”
What was the moment Wininger remembers laughing the loudest and longest?
“I think it was Thanksgiving and I was in this big leather chair watching, ‘Home Alone,’ “ he said. “We got to the scene where the robbers were trying to get into the house and Kevin had set up all the traps around the house.
“I kid you not: That was the hardest I ever laughed in my life! I’m serious. I laughed through Thanksgiving dinner thinking about that Home Alone scene.”
With this revelation, Wininger revealed a dynamic that might explain why he is having this breakthrough season. It’s that Wininger doesn’t take himself too seriously on the course and quickly casts aside mistakes he makes, however few they have become these days.
“If I got so frustrated at playing a game that I couldn’t enjoy it, I would not be playing golf,” Wininger said. “Golf’s too hard to be playing if you don’t like it. There’s no point in playing a game that’s extremely difficult if you don’t get any joy from it. And that’s what I get from golf. I have fun.”
That means Wininger didn’t beat himself up last summer after falling three strokes short of qualifying for the WIAA Division 2 State Tournament as a junior.
And that means Wininger didn’t wilt from the pressure in his sudden death showdown against Union Grove’s Connor Brown at the Racine County Invitational May 2.
After all, it’s just a game.
“There’s always something to laugh about, even if you’re not doing what you want to do,” he said.
The humorous side of Wininger is usually at its best while he’s out on the course with teammates and opponents. He’s respectful on the course, but if there’s an opportunity to lighten the mood, Wininger isn’t likely to let it pass.
“He can make a joke out of anything,” St. Catherine’s junior Vinnie Ruffalo said. “He always knows how to make people feel better and happy. He’s one of the biggest little kids I know. He’s got like a little kid humor.”
And sometimes Wininger lets others inspire the laughs, even the legends.
“We were on our way to our first meet his freshman year,” St. Catherine’s coach Dave Arkenberg said. “I always let the boys control the music in the team van. Grant took first turn and chose to play Sinatra. It was ‘My Way,’ as I recall.
“The other guys were stunned, but Grant was singing along the whole way.”
The other side of Wininger is this. Between those laughs, this kid swings golf clubs with a great deal of authority.
During his four seasons on the Angels’ varsity, his overall nine-hole average has dropped from 47.14 as freshman to 43.43 to 41.97 to 39.95 this season. Meanwhile, his successive places in the MCC have improved from 11th to eighth to fourth to first.
And after falling seven shots short of qualifying for the state tournament as a sophomore, Wininger was three shots off the pace last season.
“When he started out, he was one of the smallest guys in the program,” Arkenberg said. “Just yesterday, one of the guys I was playing with mentioned to me, ‘When you see him coming out of his car to the driving range, he doesn’t impress you as a physical specimen who’s going to come out and dominate this course.’ But he’s able to get the job done because he’s good at thinking his way through what it takes to make that happen.
“Grant has shown a lot of maturity and I’m very impressed by how he approaches his game.”
And now it’s winding down for Wininger, who faces a no-tomorrow situation each time he golfs starting next week. He will compete in a regional at The Broadlands in North Prairie May 22. If he advances, it will on to the sectional at the Meadowbrook Country Club in Racine May 28.
What are Wininger’s goals?
“Honestly, I would like to be the medalist at my regional at The Broadlands, I would like to be medalist at Meadowbrook and I would hope to win the state tournament this year. That’s the goal.”
And if he falls short?
“Even if I don’t come out on top, it’s not the end of the world,” he said.