South Dakota golf hall of famer makes Sanford International debut

It was clear earlier this week that Sioux Falls, South Dakota resident Ryan Jansa is not just another 50-year-old golfer competing in this year’s Sanford International.

He is a mortgage broker by trade, something that he brought up several times for laughs during a meeting of the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary on Sept. 11 at Minnehaha Country Club.

Jansa is also a seven-time South Dakota Golf Association Male Golfer of the Year and has won 33 SDGA tournaments throughout his amateur career including eight SDGA Amateur Championships and nine SDGA Husband/Wife Championships.

With him on the dais in front of the crowd at Minnehaha were Sanford International tournament director Davis Trosin, Sanford Health president and CEO Bill Gassen and tournament host Andy North, a two-time U.S. Open winner who is also a long-time golf commentator for ESPN.

That’s pretty good company for a PGA Tour Champions rookie playing in his first tournament.

“I’m going to soak up every moment that I can,” Jansa said. “I’m going to hit some shots where people are going to say, ‘That guy is a mortgage broker.’ There’s no question about that. But don’t be frightened. If you see me in another fairway, I’ve lived that way my whole career.”

In April, the Sanford International announced that Jansa would be awarded a sponsor’s exemption for the 2023 tournament and would be competing. Throughout the summer he has attempted via pre-tournament qualifying to get into other PGA Tour Champions events around the country. That process, though at times humbling, has helped prepare him for what he’ll be up against this week.

Playing at Minnehaha Country Club is something he’s done hundreds of times. Playing in the Sanford International with some of the best to ever play will be a new experience, however.

“I need to focus on golf,” Jansa said. “The golf course is not going to change. I love playing in front of people – I’ve always played better when I had people watching – but maybe not this many people.”

Jansa joked that the spectators he hits with golf balls would not be interested in getting loans from him, so he was going to try to keep the errant shots to a minimum.

“It’s definitely going to be a home game for me,” he said. “I’m not going to get much heckling, though I might hear it from a few of my buddies.”

Jansa’s life in golf began as a 3-year-old. He has since been around it his whole life, though not to the extent many of his fellow competitors have. His wife, Julie, is a former teaching pro herself and a frequent playing partner. They have played a lot of golf with son Izaak and daughter Reese, who is a two-time state high school champion and now golfing at South Dakota State.

In 2021, Reese played in a national tournament in Pebble Beach that paired junior players with professionals. Reese’s partner was Jerry Kelly, an 11-time Champions Tour winner and perennial Sanford International competitor.

Kelly and his caddie, Eric Meller, had several conversations with Jansa that week, who was then considering a 50-and-over attempt to play professionally.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am that our daughter got a chance to play golf with Jerry,” Jansa said. “He’s a great golfer and an even better man. He really took Reese under his wing and walked her through that whole week.”

Meller, who stayed with the Jansas during last year’s International, sent Ryan a note recently about what to expect in his first tournament. It wasn’t anything earthshaking, but it felt good to hear it from someone who knows how it works inside the ropes.

“He said it’s just golf – just focus on the golf,” Jansa said. “He said, ‘You’re going to be really nervous. Just do your best and deal with the rest of it as best you can.’”

Trosin, who emceed the Rotary event, asked Jansa what he was looking forward to this most this week.

This is what he said:
“I’m looking forward to truly sharing this with my family and my friends. I’m a born-and-bred South Dakotan. I’m a huge fan of all South Dakota sports. My dad Steve is in the South Dakota Golf Hall of Fame, Julie and I are getting inducted into the Hall of Fame on Thursday. Reese is well on her way to being in that same company. To share this with people that I’ve grown up with is going to be most special part of this.”


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