The 52nd Nebraska Match Play kicks off tomorrow at The Players Club in Omaha, and a wide-open race will ensue for 99 of the best players in the state, including four are past champions.
The championship begins with 36 holes of Stroke Play Qualifying on June 10 and 11, after which the field will be cut to 32 players and seeded into a match play bracket. Match play begins Wednesday, June 12, with the Rounds of 32 and 16, followed by the Quarterfinals and Semifinals on Thursday, and the 36-hole Championship Final on Friday.
Though four past champions are competing, the defending champion is missing from the field. After capturing his first Nebraska Match Play title last year, Omaha’s Alex Schaake will instead be playing in the Sunnehanna Amateur, a high-level, national event in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.
John Sajevic of Fremont is one of the four past champions that will be competing this year. Sajevic is just coming off a win at the 2019 Nebraska Senior Amateur Championship, his record fourth, and will look to keep that momentum going. He previously won the Match Play in 1989 and 1996. Sajevic is not the only one from his family competing in this week, though. His son Andy Sajevic of Omaha, who is the 2013 champion, will also be making his run at another title.
Other family feuds include brothers Andrew and Jacob Godwin of Omaha who will be battling for their first title. Their father, Pete Godwin, is a two-time champion (1995, 2001).
Two more past champions in the field are Ryan Nietfeldt of Omaha (2003) and Travis Minzel of Lincoln (2004), who will both be going for their second title. Nietfeldt won the Nebraska Four-Ball Championship at The Players Club in dramatic fashion just over a month ago, holing out for an improbable eagle in a playoff for the win. It was Nietfeldt’s eighth overall NGA title, which at the time tied him for the second-most all-time NGA men’s titles, alongside the great Bob Astleford of Omaha. Since then, John Sajevic has won a 10th title, and now holds the record. Nietfieldt and Sajevic are paired together for Stroke Play Qualifying, along with Imperial’s Mitchell Klooz. That’s 19 total NGA titles between them, including Klooz’s 2012 Nebraska Junior Amateur victory.
The field is missing some top players, but several contenders will have their eye on the prize. Only one player returns from last year’s four semifinalists, Noah Hofman of McCook. Hofman is coming off a stellar year playing for Ottawa University in Arizona, where he was the individual conference champion. David Easley of Lincoln (No. 4 in the NGA Player Rankings) is the top ranked player in the field, and he’s had plenty of experience in match play, but is still looking for his first title. Easley will play alongside Andy Sajevic and Elkhorn’s Luke Gutschewski, the 2019 NSAA Class B Champion and son of Web.com Tour Pro Scott Gutschewski, during qualifying.
The Players Club is a par-71 layout that will measure around 6,847 yards for the championship. Play begins at 7:30 a.m. for Monday and Tuesday’s Stroke Play Qualifying, and at 7 a.m. for all match play rounds.