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Alex Schaake’s great escape keeps him in Pinnacle Bank Championship
GOLF

Alex Schaake’s great escape keeps him in Pinnacle Bank Championship

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Alex Houdini chalked up another one for the amateurs at the Pinnacle Bank Championship.

“I never make it easy,” said Omaha golf’s new master of the escape, Alex Schaake.

The Iowa senior made the 36-hole cut on the number with a scrambling par to end Friday’s second round at Indian Creek.

It’s the second year in a row that an amateur at the PBC is playing on the weekend. Luke Kluver of Norfolk also needed a one-putt par in 2019 to move onto the weekend in the otherwise all-pro tournament.

Both qualified for the PBC through winning the Indian Creek Amateur. Giving a sponsor’s exemption to the winner was a requirement for Indian Creek co-owner Bill Gottsch taking the Korn Ferry tournament four years ago. Their success validates his commitment to amateur golf.

When Schaake made his 5-foot par putt, a rare yell during this fanless event came from the clubhouse patio. It was Gottsch.

At the Indian Creek Amateur, Schaake needed sand saves on his final two holes for the win. The last one, he said afterward, “might have been the best bunker shot I’ve ever had in my life. You couldn’t see it, but the ball was plugged in the bunker.”

Also playing Saturday and Sunday, and in contention, is McCook’s Brandon Crick. He’s tied for 11th at 5-under behind leader Tyler Alexander, who is 8-under.

Without fans and with the threat of afternoon storms, Saturday’s third round will be mostly in threesomes and finish earlier than usual. Crick tees off at 9:02 a.m. on No. 1. Schaake is at 9:35 on No. 10 at the same time Alexander, Greyson Sigg and Cameron Young begin on No. 1.

Making the cut was Schaake’s first goal. On the weekend, it’s about going low.

“I want to shoot scores in the high 60s or better for the weekend,” he said. “I know I can do that. I just proved that today (with a 69) and I felt like I left a few out there as well. It might have been nerves.

“I have nothing to lose anymore. I’m out here as an amateur, not to make any money. So I’m going to go out there, play smart, make some putts and hopefully come up the leaderboard a little bit.”

Schaake started Friday at 2-over but made those strokes up on the front nine with three birdies in a row to get to even par, which is where the cutline sat all afternoon.

Playing the front nine last, his ride got wilder. A bogey on Indian Creek’s No. 1 hole, a birdie on the par-5 No. 4. Still inside the cut at even par. The last four holes, he never drifted below the line but it was close.

Four holes left. He saved his par 4 on No. 6 after pulling his drive and it barely got past some trees. He got up and down from the back of the green.

Three holes left. For him, a routine two-putt birdie on the par-5 No. 7. Now at 1-under, he has a stroke to spare.

Two holes left. The spare stroke is used up. On the par-3 No. 8, he tried to save par from the sand but, in his words, had a “brutal lip out.”

One hole left. Another pulled tee shot. The lie was poor and his play was to advance it about 100 yards with a wedge. From 80 yards out, his third shot came in low by design, took a big hop forward and sat 5 feet past the pin.

Like he’s done over and over using Toptracer technology, he said. “It’s just like one of those shots that you hit right next to the hole every time. That’s kind of why at college we practice those shots every day.”

Schaake and Kluver, who will be a sophomore at Kansas, are the two collegians from Nebraska considered the best pro golf prospects. Kluver played the Western Amateur this week in Indiana and will join Schaake in the U.S. Amateur at Bandon Dunes the second week of August.

Each now has played in two PBCs. Remembering that Kluver made the cut last year motivated Schaake down the stretch Friday.

“I 100% thought about it,” Houdini said. “I’m pretty sure he got up-and-down from the fairway on 18, making a good putt (an 8-footer). It went through my head for sure as I was walking up to that last shot.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it until I bogeyed 8 because I thought I was pretty much in the clear.”

Pinnacle Bank Championship notes

McCook’s Brandon Crick wasn’t dialing in his approach shots Friday. He’ll get two days to fix that at the Pinnacle Bank Championship and maybe better his best finish of the year on the Korn Ferry Tour.

“I hit a lot of greens today but didn’t really get it close. You don’t expect to make 60- and 80-footers,’’ said Crick, who shot 70 Friday to be at 5-under and three off the lead. “I just need to be a little more solid. I’ll be fine.

“Out here, patience is kind of a key. If you get a little too greedy out there it’s easy to make bogeys and double bogeys.”

Aside from Iowa senior Alex Schaake from Omaha, no other Nebraskan in the field made the cut. Scott Gutschewski of Omaha double-bogeyed his first hole and finished at 3-over after a 74. Millard West and NU graduate Brady Schnell shot 70 and also was at 3-over. Carson Schaake, playing his first PGA Tour-sponsored event since the John Deere Classic in 2015, closed with a 75 to be 10-over.

Gator on the prowl

Second-round leader Tyson Alexander, who tied for ninth last year, was one of three to shoot a tournament-low 65 on Friday. At 8-under, he leads Greyson Sigg (69) and Cameron Young (68) by one.

The Florida Gator, whose father Buddy coached him, strung together five birdies in a row on the front nine.

“I made long putts on Nos. 5 and 6 that kind of got me going,” Alexander said. “I picked on the par-5s and just kind of scored pretty well today.”

Young succeeded in Monday qualifying to make his Korn Ferry Tour debut this week.

Chip-ins

» Whee Kim had the tournament’s first ace on the 213-yard 17th hole, and the first on any hole in two years. He used a 5-iron. He joined Alexander and Hayden Shieh, who’s tied for fourth, in shooting 65.

» The cut came at even-par with 70 players advancing. Among those out for the weekend include season points leader Davis Riley (2-over) and past Omaha winners Martin Piller (3-over) and David Skinns (7-over).

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Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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