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Jayhawk golfer, Norfolk grad Luke Kluver wins Nebraska match play champoinship

Jayhawk golfer, Norfolk grad Luke Kluver wins Nebraska match play champoinship

LINCOLN — Luke Kluver felt the void, and it was fuel for him on a hot afternoon.

The University of Kansas sophomore from Norfolk now is in Nebraska’s circle of champions in men’s amateur golf.

Kluver, who turned 20 this month, qualified as a teenager for the past two Pinnacle Bank Championships on the Korn Ferry Tour, played in a U.S. Open sectional, the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Junior Amateur in the same year and won three Class A high school championships.

But no junior or adult Nebraska Golf Association state titles.

He filled the void with Friday’s 5-and-4 win at Hillcrest Country Club over 2003 champion Ryan Nietfeldt of Omaha for the Nebraska men’s match play championship.

The championship match is played at 36 holes, and after the first 18, Kluver was 3-down to the 44-year-old accountant.

Four holes into the afternoon round, the match was even. Kluver won the next hole and never trailed again while playing the final 15 holes in 5-under par.

What changed between rounds?

“That I don’t have a NGA title and I wanted to get one,’’ Kluver said.

He eagled Hillcrest’s No. 1 hole, saved par from the trees to halve No. 2 and won the next two holes.

“Making 3 on the first hole just let him know I was here to play and I was going to come after him,’’ he said. “To be able to square the match after four holes was huge, and I was able to just keep applying pressure on him as the match went on.”

Nietfeldt would have been the oldest match-play winner since Omaha’s Pete Godwin in 2001. Nietfeldt’s 10th NGA title also would have tied a record.

“This showed I can compete, I can play and I have a chance to win more state titles if I keep playing the way I want to,’’ he said. “I have to hand it to Luke. He played really well when he needed to. He made a lot of good putts.”

Kluver’s route to the title required wins over four past winners — AJ Elgert of Lincoln in the first round, Travis Minzel of Lincoln in the quarterfinals, defending champion Caleb Badura of Aurora and NU in the semifinals and Nietfeldt — in his five matches.

“I hit the ball great this week. I gave myself a lot of opportunities and was able to follow it up in basically every match,’’ Kluver said. “I fought hard in quite a few matches, and it was 3-down today after 18 holes against Ryan and just had to keep plugging away.”

Nietfeldt, a former Husker and pro golfer, sees Kluver’s potential as “pretty unlimited.”

“He’s hitting shots that I learned out here probably when I was in my late 20s and he’s doing it like 10 years prior to that,’’ Nietfeldt said. “He can hit the ball. When he wants to crank it up there, he can hit it 340 (yards). When you can do that and have it go on line, and the wind’s down, he can let it rip.”

In front of a large family gallery, Kluver claimed a title that he said always will be special to him.

“This is definitely the biggest amateur golf event I’ve won,’’ he said. “It means a lot being in the state of Nebraska, and just feeling able to put my name on that trophy with a lot of other guys is a big-time success.”