A Sigh of Relief

Although bogeying five of his first six holes, including a humbling five-putt, former Badger golfer Tyler Obermueller survived the 'Massacre at Merrill' to win his first Wisconsin State Amateur Championship at the challenging Merrill Hills Country Club Thursday.

WAUKESHA, Wis. – Standing over his final putt as an amateur, former Badger golfer Tyler Obermueller wanted to do something he rarely did all afternoon – make a meaningful putt.

When the two-foot putt found the bottom of the cup, Obermueller gave a small fist pump and ended his amateur career the best way possible.

Obermueller bounced back from an opening nine of 41 with two birdies on his second half to card a 6-over 77, finishing at 4-over 288 to win his first Wisconsin State Amateur Championship by the narrowest of margins, beating Fitchburg's Miles McConnell (76) and Franksville's Andrew Dekeuster (73) by one stroke.

"I couldn't think of a better way to go out," said Obermueller, who will turn pro at Friday's Minnesota State Open. "I am really excited to turn professional, but I've wanted to win this golf tournament for a long time."

With the start he had at the ultra-challenging Merrill Hills Country Club, a course that forces golfers to play smart instead of herculean, Obermueller looked more like a Sunday hacker than a future pro.

After birding the opening hole, Obermueller bogeyed his next five holes, two of which were double bogeys that were painful to watch - a five-putt on the 528-yard second hole and a snipe into some pine trees on the 484-yard fourth, forcing him to take an unplayable lie penalty.

"I was clueless for awhile," Obermueller said. "I was shocked and really didn't know what to think. I didn't know when the wheels were going to get back on."

The same could be said for his playing partners - Mark Bemowski (80), a six-time State Amateur Championship, and Jordan Elsen (80), a senior captain with the Badgers. Taking Obermueller's opening-hole birdie out of the equation, the three-some registered no birdies, hit just seven greens in regulation and each shot a 6-over 41 on the front nine.

It got so bad that Bemowski's caddie said it looked more like the C Flight of the Club Championship than the final round of the 108th amateur.

"I felt like just telling all the audience, ‘Hey, trust me, we play golf. We're going to turn this around.'" said Obermueller. "For a while, I bet half the members were wondering why they weren't in the tournament."

Obermueller did recover, getting up and down on both 16 and 17 to start moving in the right direction. On the tree-lined 11th, Obermueller birdied after he punched his approach shot from under a willow tree to 15 feet. On the 532-yard 13th, the lefty ripped a second-shot fairway wood from the rough onto green from 250 yards out and two-putted for birdie and a two-shot advantage.

Despite a pair of bogeys on the par-4 15th and the par-5 17th, Obermueller punched a 150-yard 9-iron on the 412-yard 18th to 15 feet, setting up the victory on the 72nd hole.

"I wanted to make sure I knew exactly where I stood," Obermueller said. "I just wanted to get it up there and two putt."

He only needed a two-putt to win because McConnell struggled all week to find the pace of Merrill Hills' slick greens. Estimating he made 11 three-putts during the week, McConnell, entering the final hole tied a top the leaderboard and playing in the second-to-last group, hit his first putt from above the hole too hard, sending it 25-feet past.

McConnell missed the comebacker and watched helplessly as Obermueller closed the door.

"It's tough to win the golf tournament when you three putt," said McConnell, who has now finished runner up in four state amateur tournaments, three of which occurred in Florida. "The greens are so tough that you can bogey any hole, but you can't recover from that many three putts. I knew that two putts was all I needed, which is disappointing."

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