Golf outing supports student learning opportunities

What: Animal and Dairy Sciences Classic Golf Outing

Where: University Ridge Golf Course, 9002 County Road PD, Verona

When: Tuesday, May 14, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

Information: or

By Jim Massey, Freelance writer 

It has been nearly 66 years since retired dairy farmer Joe Rowbotham graduated with a degree in dairy science from UW–Madison, and the Walworth County man is still appreciative of the education he received during his time there.

He was a member of the dairy judging team in 1957 and has fond memories of his time at the UW.

Rowbotham and his two sons, Rob and David, both who received degrees from the Dairy Sciences Department, will be playing in the Animal and Dairy Sciences Classic Golf Outing on May 14 at University Ridge Golf Course near Verona. They have played in the tournament every year since its inception and see it as a way to support the department that helped springboard their careers.

“We have a team and sponsor a hole every year because I believe in paying back,” Joe says from his winter residence in Mesa, Ariz. “I had a good time when I was on the dairy judging team and I like to support them. We have a lot of fun when we’re there.”

Proceeds from the golf tournament support undergraduate student scholarships and high-impact learning experiences. These include intercollegiate competitive teams, student travel, hands-on learning laboratories and undergraduate research.

The outing provides an opportunity for participants to network with faculty and staff and others within the animal and dairy sciences industry. It is the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department’s primary fundraising event. Previous outings have raised as much as $30,000 for those programs.

Rob Rowbotham, senior principal data scientist at Grande Cheese Co. in Fond du Lac, earned a bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in the Animal and Dairy Sciences Department. He most recently earned a doctorate degree at the urging and with the help of his employer.

The Rowbothan family has participated in every Animal and Dairy Sciences Classic Golf Outing since its inception, including in 2023. Last year’s team included, from left, Rob Rowbotham, Don Buchert, Joe Rowbotham and David Rowbotham. 

His background is in mastitis and milk quality. He earned his doctorate degree under the tutelage of Pam Ruegg and Doug Reinemann at the UW.

Rob, who lives in Waterloo, says he appreciates the fact that his family’s participation can help raise scholarship money for current Animal and Dairy Sciences Department students.

“Whether they’re going into production back on the farm or going into the industry somewhere else, being able to help them has been great,” he says. “The Animal and Dairy Sciences Department at UW–Madison does such great work. It’s the place to be.

“(The golf outing) is also a great place to network. There are dairy producers there and others from the industry, so it’s fun to interact with everyone.”

The Rowbotham family has a strong connection to UW–Madison. Joe and his wife, Anne, are both UW graduates, as are Rob and his wife, Brenda, and David and his wife, Kara. 

When Joe graduated from the UW in 1958, he took over a small dairy farm from his parents near Walworth. The dairy grew with a genetic improvement emphasis, so much so that when the herd was dispersed in 1992, they sold 250 head of milk cows and young cattle into 22 states and three foreign countries. 

Joe jokes that after they sold the dairy herd he became a CBA farmer – corn, beans and Arizona. 

The Rowbothams have been participating in the outing ever since its origin at The Bridges Golf Course, where it was begun as a tribute to longtime dairy science professor and dairy judging team coach Dave Dickson. The outing was moved to the University Ridge Golf Course several years ago.

Joe tunes up for the golf outing by playing four or five times a week at his second home in the Leisure World community in Mesa. He and Anne purchased a home there in 1997 and spend about half the year there.

“I play with a group down here four days during the week and every other Sunday,” he says. “When I started playing here I was one of the youngest guys. Now I’m one of the oldest.”

Joe will turn 88 on May 30. 

The Rowbothams have good memories of the golf outing and recall that one year, they finished in second place.

“That was when I was a little younger and could hit the ball a little further,” Joe says. “My eyesight isn’t like it used to be now. One of the guys who I play with here in Arizona says, ‘Don’t worry about finding your ball, it’s always down the center, you know that.’ ”

Activities at the golf outing besides the golf will include music, hors d’oeuvres, beer and soda, a brat cookout, and a tournament awards ceremony.

New this year will be the option for teams to register a team of three people and add a Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences “celebrity” to play as their fourth golfer. The celebrity can be a faculty or staff member or student in the department.

The Golf Classic is a scramble, where each team member plays the ball closest to the hole after each shot. Registration includes 18 holes of golf, cart rental, lunch and prizes for a fee of $175 per golfer. 

A variety of sponsorship and donor opportunities are available. For registration or sponsorship information, visit