Wild Horse Golf Club was the site for the 54th Nebraska Match Play Championship June 15-19 and after four days of golf, Lincoln’s Nate Vontz prevailed as the Mens’ State Match Play Champion.
The Creighton Bluejay golfer secured the No. 1 seed after blazing the course for an astonishing -13 in Stroke Play Qualifying, winning all five of his matches leading up to the final rounds.
Vontz beat out the 2013 Nebraska Match Play Champion Andy Sajevic, who holds eight total NGA titles.
The tournament began June 15 with the first round of 18 holes of qualifying stroke play, continuing into a second round of stroke play to bring the field to 32 players that were seeded into a match play bracket. Match play began on June 17 when the field was cut from 32 to 16. The quarterfinals and semifinals were played on the 18th and the event concluded with a 36-hole Championship final on the 19.
That means that Nate Vontz and Andy Sajevic played a total of 135 holes in five days at Wild Horse.
“It was a grind - it’s nice to see some work pay off, I’m glad I got it done,” said Nate Vontz in an interview with the NGA.
The tournament field was not lacking for talent in any manner. The field included Aurora’s Caleb Badura, a current Husker golfer who won the tournament in 2019. Other champions who competed include four-time Nebraska Amateur Champion Andy Sajevic of Fremont, Travis Minzel of Lincoln and Ryan Neitfeldt of Elkhorn.
Danny Woodhead, Elkhorn Native and former Chadron State College running back made a solid run for the title this year, as well. The retired NFL veteran played through the semifinals when he fell to Andy Sajevic, who placed second in the tournament. Woodhead most recently competed in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Chambers Bay Golf Course in Washington in May.
Entries for the tournament are open to amateur golfers with an active Handicap Index based on ratings for men not exceeding 6.0 under the World Handicap System issued by a member club of the Nebraska Golf Association. Players must be a resident of the State of Nebraska to be eligible.
Each player is responsible for an entry fee of $175 and the field is limited to 156 entries. Gothenburg’s Jake Scherer and Jeff Holsten were among the 2021 field.
“To us, it’s great to host one of the Nebraska Golf Association’s major championships,” Wild Horse Director of Golf Tony Collins said. “It really puts us on the map with other top courses who have hosted in this state like The Country Club of Lincoln, The Players Club (in Omaha), The Prairie Club (Valentine) and many others.”
While an event like the Nebraska State Match Play Championships brings notoriety to the course on which it is hosted, the community that hosts the event also benefits.
“Tournaments at Wild Horse, especially large events like the State Match Play Championship have two kinds of economic impact on our community,” said Gothenburg Chamber Executive Director Deb Egenberger. “The primary impact includes the money spent to produce the event, such as staff payroll, facility operations and additional goods purchased specifically for the tournament like food and drinks.
“Then there is the ‘multiplier effect,’ or secondary spending by participants that includes things like overnight stays, meals and fuel purchased while they’re here.”
Egenberger went on to say that the Nebraska Tourism Commission says that for every visitor dollar spent, an additional $1.70 is created in business and income.
“That’s huge when you’re looking at 144 participants, and many brought at least one family member along,” Egenburger said.
The Nebraska Golf Association was founded in 1966 and is comprised of all members of public and private clubs and/or municipal or regional golf associations which utilize an approved handicap service recognized by the USGA and provided by the NGA. It’s mission is to uphold and promote the game of golf and its values to all golfers in Nebraska. Duties of the Association include governance of member clubs and service as their handicapping and course rating authority, conduct of state golf championships, local USGA qualifying and other notable competitions, promotion of junior golf, presentation of worthwhile educational programs and support of allied golf organizations in Nebraska. Additionally, the Nebraska Golf Association is an Allied Golf Association of the USGA and carries out core services including Handicap Administration and Oversight, Course Rating, Rules of Golf and Rules of Amateur Status, Tournaments and USGA Championship Qualifiers and USGA Initiatives and Community Programs.