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Stroke Play qualifying began Tuesday at Wild Horse Golf Club

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GOTHENBURG – The 54th Nebraska Match Play Championship is set for June 15-19 at Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg with a field overflowing with great talent.

The championship begins with 36 holes of Stroke Play Qualifying on June 15 and 16, after which the field will be cut to 32 players and seeded into a match play bracket. Match play begins Thursday, June 17, with the Rounds of 32 and 16, followed by the Quarterfinals and Semifinals on Friday, and the 36-hole Championship Final on Saturday.

Despite 2020 champion Luke Kluver of Norfolk not returning to defend his title, there are plenty of former champions eager to add to their trophy case. Kluver is competing in the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, but 144 players will compete at Wild Horse this week.

Current Husker golfer and Aurora native Caleb Badura is the most recent winner in the field, claiming the title in 2019. He fell to Kluver in last year’s semifinals on the 18th hole. Other past champions competing include the reigning, and four-time Nebraska Amateur Champion Andy Sajevic of Fremont, who won his match play title in 2013. Travis Minzel of Lincoln (2004) and Ryan Nietfeldt of Elkhorn (2003) are also in the field. Each will look to become only the eighth player to win multiple Nebraska Match Play Championships.

Nietfeldt is on the lookout for his 10th career NGA title, at a place where he’s won one before. He captured the 2002 Nebraska Amateur at Wild Horse Golf Club. Another championship win would tie him with Fremont’s John Sajevic and Omaha’s Alex Schaake for the most career men’s titles. Nietfeldt’s most recent wins came in 2019 winning both the Nebraska Mid-Amateur and Four-Ball Championships. He also finished runner-up to Kluver at last year’s championship, setting a record with his third runner-up finish.

Outside of former champions, David Easley of Lincoln will look to make a splash and continue his successful year, as he currently leads the 2021 NGA Points Rankings on the strength of runner-up finishes at The Homesteader at Beatrice Country Club and the Fremont Invitational at Fremont Golf Club. Other top points players joining him will be Johnny Spellerberg of Bennington (No. 4) and Jay Moore of Lincoln (No. 6).

Southeast Community College men’s golf coach Calvin Freeman made another appearance in his second year after his amateur status was granted back. Freeman advanced to the semifinals last year, losing to Nietfeldt, and finished runnerup at the Nebraska Amateur. He’ll play alongside Nate Vontz of Lincoln and the 2020 Nebraska Junior Amateur Golfer of the Year Luke Gutschewski of Elkhorn in the qualifying rounds.

The Creighton Bluejay, Vontz, is looking for his first NGA title, while Gutschewski now owns a Nebraska Junior Match Play (2019) and a Nebraska Junior Amateur (2020) title.

Former NFL running back, Danny Woodhead of Elkhorn will also be making an appearance at Wild Horse after competing at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Chambers Bay Golf Course in Washington last month. Woodhead and his partner, Michael Wilhelm, did not make the cut after two rounds of stroke play.

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