Alex Schaake started the day as half of one of the most star-studded final pairings in the history of the Nebraska Amateur Championship.
He ended it as a historic champion.
On a sun-splashed afternoon on one of Nebraska's venerable golf courses, Schaake first outdueled Norfolk star Luke Kluver, then outlasted Aurora's Caleb Badura in a seven-hole playoff to win his fourth consecutive Nebraska Amateur championship Thursday at the Country Club of Lincoln.
Schaake's latest title puts him into rare company. He became just the second golfer in the event's 111-year history to win four consecutive titles, joining the late Bob Astleford. Astleford won six straight from 1962 to 1967, including the 1965 championship at Country Club of Lincoln.
"I knew that a four-peat has only been done once. And with how good Nebraska golf is now, and the upcoming talent, I think it's going to be even tougher to do in the future," said the Omaha native and Creighton Prep alum. "To do it at a place like this, this place has been huge for Nebraska golf, has held so many tournaments, so many amateurs and match plays, it's really special."
Schaake's marathon playoff victory over Badura, after both finished 72 holes with scores of 8-under par 280, tied the second-longest playoff in the event's history. It was the tournament's first playoff since 2004, and only a 10-hole playoff between Dave Maurstad and Steve Mack in 1981 was longer.
"Heck, yeah, I got tired," said Schaake, who has carried his own bag for all but one round during his four consecutive wins.
Schaake, the reigning Big Ten golfer of the year headed into his senior season at Iowa, and Kluver, the three-time Nebraska Class A champion who has had success on the national level and will play at Kansas next season, went off at high noon in the day's final grouping.
Kluver tied Schaake at 8-under with a birdie on the first hole before Schaake went back in front alone after Kluver's bogey at the par-4 third. The two stayed neck-in-neck for the next two hours, with a Kluver birdie at the par-5 13th pulling him back within one shot of the lead.
But a plugged lie led to a Kluver bogey on the par-3 14th hole, and a double bogey followed on 15 after Kluver's tee shot clipped a tree branch and dropped about 40 yards in front of the tee box. That cleared the way for Schaake and Badura's duel.
Badura, who last month won the Nebraska Match Play title, was perfectly content playing in the group in front of Schaake and Kluver, calmly going about his work as the majority of the eyes were on the final pairing. His 4-under 68 was the low round of the day.
"Right when I saw that pairing I was like, 'Yes,'" Badura said. "No one's following, no one's expecting anything, no pressure, just go out and swing and make some putts."
Despite coming up just short of being the seventh golfer to win the Nebraska Match Play and Nebraska Amateur titles in the same season, Badura took plenty away from his week.
"I really wasn't expecting to be in that playoff," he said. "That was just one of the coolest experiences on a golf course. Even though I didn't come out on top, it was still a great experience."
With Schaake watching from the fairway, Badura birdied the par-5 17th hole to pull into a tie at 8-under. Schaake answered with his own birdie minutes later, and after Badura just missed a birdie putt on the 18th hole and tapped in for par, Schaake bogeyed the 72nd hole when his chip shot ran out 13 feet past the cup.
Schaake's fourth consecutive title will very likely be his last. He will almost certainly give professional golf a try after he completes his college eligibility next spring.
"I was really proud of myself this week," said Schaake, who trailed the leaders by five shots after the second round. "I showed a lot of grit, toughness out there, and my mental game was pretty good this week."