Family of Milwaukee blacksmiths makes logo sculpture for Erin Hills


June 11, 2017

Artists Kent Knapp with Milwaukee Blacksmith shakes the hand of John Morrissett of Erin Hills as he and his fellow artist and daughter, Zoey, stand near the sculpture they created for the U.S. Open Championship Thursday morning at Erin Hills.
John Ehlke/ Conley News Service

TOWN OF ERIN — For Kent Knapp, there is a soul and a lively energy that goes into creating something with his hands. After all, his love for blues music is what brought him to the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

“For most of my life, blues and blacksmithing have gone together,” said Knapp, owner of Milwaukee Blacksmith.

His latest work is a sculpture that weighs about 2,500 pounds, is about 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide, and is sitting in fan central at Erin Hills. It’s a shamrock replica of this year’s championship logo, made of mild steel.

The Knapp family business was approached by the USGA about the project in early May. The family made a name for themselves with a season of their own show on the History Channel, also named “Milwaukee Blacksmith.”

Knapp has passed down the skill to his four eldest children, all of whom, along with his wife, helped make the sculpture.

“All of my kids have picked up a hammer at one point or another,” Knapp said.

When asked what a project like this takes, Knapp’s oldest daughter, Zoey, 24, said patience.

Jean Breuer of West Bend brought her grandson to the opening of the merchandise tent Thursday morning to pick out a souvenir. But first, they stopped to take a picture in front of the Knapps’ creation.

She hopes the U.S. Open isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime event, but either way it’s historic, and said this is the perfect symbol of that.

“It’s a good way to represent the town of Erin and the state of Wisconsin,” Breuer said.

Diane Mansavage lives just 2 miles away from the course and said the piece is very fitting for the Erin township.

“It’s not too fancy,” Mansavage said. “It’s just ... awesome.”

Janeen Driscoll, the USGA’s public relations director, said sculptures like the steel shamrock are a modern concept for the USGA. For the last five years, they have tried to get a local artisan to design something unique.

“We want to create an iconic place in fan central where you can have that one moment in time at the U.S. Open,” Driscoll said.

It sits in a spot that overlooks the entire course. According to employees, the sculpture is already a hit, and Driscoll predicts it will likely be a popular photo spot this year.

There has not yet been a decision about the fate of the statue after the final round June 18. It could stay at Erin Hills, but the Knapp family says they’d be happy to take it.