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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (June 17, 1999)
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NEBRASKA GOLFERS, from left, Steve Friesen, Ryan Nietfelbt, Scott Gutschewski and Josh Madden finished their college careers this spring with four
members making it to the NCAA’s.Not pictured: NU golfer Jamie Rogers.
NU’s fab five look for
By John Gaskins
Jamie Rogers could finally relax.
Nebraska’s most famed golfer in its
history, two days removed from the
final round of the 1999 NCAA
Championships, where he finished
12th, sat comfortably on his couch with
a Coors Light in'one hand and remote in
the other. He looked like he had come
from the Bahamas, not from the most
nerve-racking tournament of his life.
“Funny game this is. Stupid, really,”
Rogers said. “You never know what’s
going to happen at any single moment.
I don’t know. How the hell should I
know what I’m going to do next? That’s
the game’s charm.”
The NCAAs may not been down
right charming considering he fell from
second place after day one to 12th when
it was all over, but Rogers’ NCAAs was
nothing short of a long, strange trip,
kind of like his college career.
Kind of like Nebraska’s golf pro
gram the last five years.
Rogers is one of five NU golfers
who finished their college careers this
spring, the five members that carried
NU to its best ever finish as a team at
“This is by far the best team I’ve
ever had,” 30-year NU Head Coach
Larry Romjue said. “They were a tal
ented bunch, they had a lot of experi
ence, and they were committed to
The names will forever go down in
Nebraska golf lore as the men who
turned the program from a mediocre
cold weather team to a top 15 power
house: Jamie Rogers, Steve Friesen,
Josh Madden, Scott Gutchewski and
“I don’t think in my wildest dreams
we would be this successful five years
ago,” Romjue said. “Now we come to
expect that success.”
But two weeks after the season
ended at the NCAAs, the success con
tinues for the golfers. Life goes on and
so does golf. Two of them, Gutchewski
and Friesen, have turned pro. Rogers
will soon follow. Madden and Neitfeldt
will be forces to be reckoned with on
the amateur scene this summer.
Rogers, who was named second
team All-American after the tourna
ment, has no idea where golf will take
him next. He was hoping a high finish
at nationals would catch the eye of cor
porate sponsors to help launch a profes
sional American career. If it doesn’t he
may have to go back to Australia for a
while and play professionally there.
Such craziness was the hallmark
Rogers’ career. He was a streaky player
with a flare for the dramatic. He hits the
ball as hard as he can, as far as he can,
and when his putter is hot, watch out.
Rogers caught fire early at NCAAs, but
the wheels came out from underneath
him in a 78-75-75 finish. He was disap
pointed in his play, but once again
enjoyed golf’s test of the will.
“I just like to hit it, find it, and hit it
again,” Rogers said. “The game is all
mental, and when you get behind the 8
ball like I did the second day, you’re fin
A week later, Rogers’ roommate
and fellow Australian Madden
answered the phone and grinned imme
diately at the voice of Friesen on the
Friesen was telling Rogers of how
he had finished tied for second in his
first professional tournament, the
Prairie Golf Classic at Tiburon G.C. in
Omaha. He shot 10-under-par for three
“You’re just a f***ing machine,”
Madden shouted in delight
Madden was right. Admittedly a
polar opposite from Rogers in both per
sonality and style of game, Friesen
doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve
and his rounds aren’t too spontaneous.
He didn’t burst onto the scene and win
his first tournament like Rogers did.
But he is a machine, a well-oiled
one at that Friesen, like NU’s success,
described his four years on the team as
a “slow evolution of steady improve
ment. He went from averaging 76 his
freshman year to 72 as a senior, and he
rarely ballooned over par.
“That’s me, Even Steven,” Friesen
Friesen, a hometown boy who grew
up on NU’s home course, Firethorn
G.C., said patience is a virtue in golf
that has become his strength. That kind
of patience paid off last summer, when
he won both Nebraska State Men’s
Amateur titles (stroke and match play).
“I guess one good thing about turn
ing pro is that I don’t have to defend
those amateur tournaments,” Friesen
Gutchewski doesn’t mind the pro
life, either, although it’s been a short
one. In fact, he was all smiles after
walking off the 18th green at Holmes
Park Wednesday afternoon, having just
shot a 67 to follow a first round 69 that
put him in contention for this week’s
Prairie Tour event.
He said it didn’t take much for him
to get motivated, even immediately
after the emotionally draining pressure
of die NCAAs.
“When you’re playing for money,
it’s not tough to get excited about it,”
Gutchewski said. “But you might see
me at the casinos if I don’t start picking
Gutchewski and Friesen both
donned Huskers hats to represent what
is now their alma mater Wednesday.
Gutchewski had no idea three years ago
he’d be wearing that hat
The Ralston High School standout
was not recruited by Romjue and
played his freshman year at Creighton.
After a satisfactory start, he called up
Romjue, and Romjue gave him a
chance to play.
“Playing on this team certainly
raised my level of play,” Gutchewski
said. “It’s hard not to when you’re
around these guys.”
To get an idea of just how good
these five players were and how com
petitive just playing with each other can
get, one need only take notice at the two
remaining amateurs, Madden and
Neitfeldt, as they prepare for two major
tournaments next week - the U.S.
Publinks qualifier and the Nebraska
State Amateur Championship.
Not only are they favorites to win
both tournaments, but the twcreven play
together Monday at the Publinks, and
only one of them could earn a free trip
to Chicago for the national champi
The two stood on the 14th tee at
Woodland Hills G.C. outside Eagle
Wednesday in their practice round for
the State Am. Neitfeldt stood in awe at
the 270-yard carry over a water hazard
required on the brutally long par four.
“You’re going to really need to bust
into one to carry it,” Neitfeldt said.
“I always bust into it,” Madden said,
and did exactly "that
The two joked all day about their
newfound arch rivalry thanks to the pro
status of their teammates. In the middle
of the joking was serious preparation
for the tournament.
Madden, whose ball found his dri
ver’s sweet spot all day, is looking to
come back from a performance at the
NCAAs that saw him fail to break 80 .
(in the second round) for the first time
all season. Neitfeldt wtis looking to
surge like he did in his first three years
at NU and avenge a disappointing
“We’re ready,” Neitfeldt said. “It’s
going to be fun.”
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