Schaake leads the Nebraska Amateur Championship after 3rd round
It looked like it could be the end of Omaha’s Alex Schaake’s run, but the three-time defending champion wasn’t about to let his chance at more history slip away. He surged into the lead with the low round of the day by two strokes to take his fourth straight 54-hole lead after the third round of the 111th Nebraska Amateur Championship on Wednesday at The Country Club of Lincoln.
The 2016, 2017 and 2018 champion entered the day five strokes back of the leaders, but a round of 66 (-6) brought him to the top of the leaderboard at 209 (-7). He wasted no time setting the pace and cutting into the lead. Schaake drove two of the first three greens, and two-putted for birdie on both No. 1 and No. 3. After a bogey on the par-3 fifth, Schaake bounced back with a birdie on the par-4 sixth. He then followed with two more birdies on Nos. 8 and 9 to make the turn in 32 (-4) and get within one stroke of the lead. His birdie on the par-5 eighth was his third two-putt birdie of the round.
Schaake added birdies on two of the three par-5s on the back nine, and narrowly missed another chance on the 18th hole. When he tapped in for his par, he held a three-stroke lead, an eight-stroke swing from where he started the day. He has held the 54-hole lead in each of his three Nebraska Amateur wins, but this is by far his smallest margin. If he can close out the win, it will be his fourth straight title, matching what the great Bob Astleford did here at The Country Club 54-years ago. He’s the only player to win at least four consecutive.
He’ll have to take on a familiar rival though, in Norfolk’s Luke Kluver, the 2017 and 2018 Nebraska Junior Golfer of the Year. Schaake and Kluver first battled in 2016 at the NSAA Class A Boys Golf Championship, with Kluver making birdie on the 18th hole and winning the title in a playoff with another birdie. Later that summer, Schaake cruised to win the 2016 Nebraska Junior Amateur by four strokes. Kluver made a final round run to finish runnerup, but couldn’t catch him. A couple years later, the two faced-off in the semifinals of the 2018 Nebraska Match Play, with Schaake coming out on top again in extra holes.
Kluver started the day tied for the lead at 6-under and made an early birdie to take the solo lead. However, four bogeys in the middle of his round dropped him back. He came roaring back though with a birdie on the par-4 16th hole. Then, after launching a drive on the par-5 17th, Kluver stuck his second shot to two feet and rolled in the putt for eagle to tie Schaake at 7-under. A bogey on the 18th hole dropped Kluver out the lead, but an evenpar 72 left him just one stroke back at 210 (-6). He’ll play with Schaake in the final pairing on Thursday at 12 p.m.
Caleb Badura of Aurora, the 2019 Nebraska Match Play Champion, made an eagle-2 on No. 2 and held the lead for a long stretch, but ran into some trouble in the wind on the back nine. He rebounded with a birdie on the 18th hole, but a round of 73 (+1) leaves him three strokes back in a tie for third with Noah Hofman of McCook. Hofman shot one of the best rounds of the day, rolling in five birdies during his round of 69 (-3).
The first-round leader Jace Guthmiller of Lincoln is in fifth at 213 (-3) after a round of 73 (+1), while Matthew Schaefer of Fordyce and Fernando Arzate of Bellevue are tied for sixth at 214 (-2). Husker golfer Tanner Owen is in eighth at 215 (-1), and three-time champion Andy Sajevic of Omaha is tied for ninth with Nate Vontz of Lincoln at 216 (E).
Lincoln’s David Easley shot the second-best round of the day, a 68 (-4), to jump into 11th at 218 (+2). The 2003 and 2004 champion AJ Elgert of Lincoln shot an even-par 72 to get into a tie for 14th at 222 (+6). Ryan Nietfeldt of Elkhorn, the 2002 champion, is tied for 33rd at 226 (+10). John Sajevic of Fremont, the 1989 champion, dropped into a tie for 41st at 228 (+12) after a round of 79 (+7). It’s his worst round in the Nebraska Amateur since 2000, and he’s never finished outside of the top 25 in his previous 33 appearances