Luke Kluver Makes Comeback in State Match Play
The Final of the 53rd Nebraska Match Play Championship is set, and it's an incredible match-up of the top two seeds, Luke Kluver of Norfolk and Ryan Nietfeldt of Elkhorn.
Kluver, who will be sophomore on the Kansas Jayhawk golf team in the fall, is looking for his first NGA title and could also become the first No. 1 seed to win the title since 2012. Kevin Stanek of Bellevue won that year as the top seed, claiming his second-straight title. It wasn't easy for Kluver on Thursday though, as he faced a couple tough tests.
In the Quarterfinals, Kluver found himself 3-down to the 2004 Champion Travis Minzel of Lincoln. Minzel chipped in on No. 13 to gain that 3-up lead, but Kluver answered with a great tee shot on the par-3 16th hole. He rolled in a birdie from about five feet and then won No. 17 with a par. Kluver hit the par-5 18th green in two, and two-putted for birdie to send the match into extra holes. Both players made birdie on the first extra hole, and Kluver closed out the match with a par on the 20th hole.
Kluver had another battle in the Semifinals, as he faced the defending champion Caleb Badura of Aurora. Kluver took the early lead, and never lost it, as Badura kept it close and cut the lead to 1 up with a birdie on No. 14. However, after they halved the next three holes, Kluver pitched it close on No. 18 and Badura conceded his birdie after missing his par putt.
On the other side of the bracket, Nietfeldt had a different story, not needing to play the 17th and 18th holes in either of his matches. Nietfeldt won his third straight match by a result of 4 and 3, defeating Jesse Talcott of Ashland. Nietfeldt then had a close match against No. 3 seed Calvin Freeman of Table Rock in the semfinals. Freeman drove the shortened par-4 14th hole and made the putt for eagle. However, Nietfeldt closed out the match on the par-3 16th by nearly holing his tee shot for an ace. His putt from inside a foot was conceded and Nietfeldt was headed to his fourth final.
Nietfeldt is now one behind Knox Jones of Lincoln in finals appearances. With a win on Friday, he'd also set the record for the longest span between victories. It would be 17 years between wins for the 2003 Champion, breaking another Knox Jones' record of 15 years between his 1979 and 1994 wins.
The Championship Final begins at 7 a.m. on Friday, with the resumption set for 11:30 a.m..