Elsen, a senior-to-be on the UW's men's golf team, has no college titles, no major tournament titles or even a major junior title win on his resume. In less than 24 hours, Elsen could change that in a big way.
Despite not having his best day, Elsen navigated the challenging, tree-line golf course at Merrill Hills Country Club to shoot a 1-under 70 in the third round of the 108th Wisconsin State Amateur Championship Wednesday.
Tied with him a top the leader board is former Badger, and good friend, Tyler Obermueller (71) at 2-under 211.
"I really didn't have my ‘A' game, but I was really grinding it out, trying to manufacture shots and think about where I wanted my ball to be," Elsen said. "I've accepted bad shots today, something that I've been trying to do all week. I didn't do anything spectacular, but I felt really focused on every aspect."
Elsen totaled three birdies on the challenging course, which, in addition to its narrow fairways, 1,500+ trees and small greens with severe slope, played at 6,800 yards, and took just two bogeys, but it could have been much worse.
On the par 4 11th, Elsen's drive embedded into a fairway bunker, forcing him to swing for the fences to advance the ball. His second shot landed in a greenside bunker, but his approach shot landed three feet from the cup for a kick-in par.
On the par 3 16th, Elsen's iron missed long and left and he stubbed his approach shot, leaving him a downhill, 15-foot putt from the fringe. Choosing to focus on the putt instead of throwing his sand wedge, Elsen calmly sank the putt, escaping with another up and down.
"I had a couple wayward drives, but I recovered very well," Elsen said. "This course sets up really well for me. It's just like Kenosha Country Club. It's a good test of golf, because you know you have to get up and down and grind it out.
"You can't sleep out here. You can three put anywhere and you can throw a lot away if you blow up and lose your emotions."
Playing one group behind him was Obermueller, who finished his eligibility this spring at UW and will turn pro following this tournament. Obermueller birdied five holes, but had trouble controlling his driver. He blocked his tee shot on the par-4 10th landed in the next fairway (he ended up making par), but he wasn't as fortunate on the 412-yard 18th hole, spraying his driver left and three-putted for a double-bogey 6, erasing his two-shot lead.
Mukwonago's Mark Bemowski, a six-time State Am champ, shot a 73 and was one shot back at 212 and Fitchburg's Miles McConnell (70) was fourth at 213.
"It was a pretty disappointing way to finish, but you live, you learn," Obermueller said. "It is what it is, but I just have to make some putts tomorrow and play smart. Hopefully, I can just stay patient, stay smart and get the job done."
In the final pairing together at 11:12, it will be a contrast of styles between Elsen, a solid ball striker that sticks to fairways and greens, and Obermueller, who Elsen described as having a ‘grinder mentality' with a solid short game. With the course expected to be stretched to its max and pin placements expected to be treacherous, Elsen knows that his patience is what will carry him through.
"I think I am headed in the right direction," Elsen said. "Realistically, anything can happen. The way I am playing right now and the way I am scoring, I think I have a good chance to win this thing."