Rohlik Wins Wisconsin Sr. Open; Stendahl Is 2nd, Johnson 3rd
September 7, 2023 | 6 min.
ByMichael R Fermoyle
MADISON, Wis. -- The first round of the Wisconsin State Senior Open was a roller coaster ride, and although the second round didn't have the wild ups and downs of the first, it seemed fitting that there was a dramatic reversal over the final three holes as the leaders came down the stretch.
Actually, the winner, Tony Rohlik, could have made it easier on himself. He was cruising along in the first round on Tuesday, having made four birdies and only one bogey over the first 17 holes at Maple Bluff Country Club -- and then he made a triple bogey at the 374-yard, par-4 18th. With that, he turned what probably should have been a 68 or 69 into an even-par 71, and dropped into a tie for fifth place. But he redeemed himself on Wednesday by putting together a bogey-free 67, which gave him a 36-hole total of 138, and that turned out to be just good enough for a one-stroke victory.
Derek Stendahl was the only one of the top three finishers without a double or a triple on his card either day. He opened with a 68, was the first-day leader, and he was still leading by one with three holes to go on Day 2 -- in pouring rain. But his wedge shot from 85 yards at the 355-yard, par-4 17th clipped a tree branch and dropped down onto the fringe, 25 feet from the cup. Wanting to be sure he got the first putt to the hole -- "I'd been leaving a bunch of those putts short" -- he rolled the first putt 6 feet past the cup, and left the par putt on the low edge. At roughly the same time that Stendahl was suffering that three-putt bogey at the 16th, Rohlik, up ahead, was making a 10-foot putt for a birdie at the par-4 17th (371 yards).
For the effort, Rohlik got $2,000.
Stendahl had to settle for a 71 and a second-place finish at 139. That was worth $1,400.
J.T. Johnson, a winner of 21 Minnesota state titles, got his first across the border this summer when he won the Wisconsin Senior Amateur Match Play Championship. He fiinished third at Maple Bluff, closing with a 69 for a 142.
Michael Crowley, the 2020 Senior Open winner, finished alone in fourth this year with a 143, and four-time champion Jim Schuman was part of a five-way tie for fifth at 144. He and Crowley both shot 73 on Wednesday.
Unlike Johnson, Crowley, Schuman and everyone else in the top 10 -- and probably everyone else who finished anywhere near the top of the standings -- neither Rohlik nor Stendahl had played in a Wisconsin tournament in the last 25 years.
Rohlik, 54, grew up in Eau Claire and was a Chippewa Valley Golf Association legend, winning 21 CVGA titles before moving to Minnesota in 1994, and then to Arizona in 2000. That was when he took a club pro job, but in his spare time he qualified for seven PGA Tour events, including the Phoenix Open three times. He's still eligible to play in Wisconsin tournaments because he went to high school in the state and also attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Stendahl, a 52-year-old Middleton, Wis., native, became the general manager at Rush Creek GC in Maple Grove in 1996. He's been one of Minnesota's best pros pretty much since then, and last year he finished second on the Minnesota Senior Player of the Year points list, only 5.5 points (273 to 267.5) behind the perennial Minnesota Section PGA Senior Player of the Year -- Don Berry. Like Rohlik, Stendahl is eligible for Wisconsin tournaments because he grew up in the state and went to college there, for two years at UW-Whitewater, before he transferred to Mississippi State.
Rohlik got off the blocks impressively in the first round, with birdies at the first and second holes. He made his only bogey of the tournament at the 11th hole, but got back to 3 under for the day with a birdie at the 12th, and stayed at 3 under until his disastrous 18th hole.
Stendahl, who won the 2022 Minnesota State Senior Open, hasn't won this year, but he's been knocking on the door all summer. This week was the fourth time he's played in the final group of a major event, and the fourth time he's just missed out on claiming a title. He tied for second in the Minnesota Section PGA Championship, the Minnesota Senior PGA Championship and the Minnesota Senior Open. And he, too, got off to a great start on Tuesday at Maple Bluff, making birdies at the third and fourth holes and adding two more birdies at the 10th and 12th holes before making his first bogey at the 13th. He got that lost stroke back quickly, with a birdie at the 14th.
The 16th hole was his undoing. He made only four bogeys in 36 holes, but he bogeyed the 16th both days.
And then there was Johnson, who at age 60 still hits it a long way and is often the player with the most interesting scorecard in the tournament. He once won the State Mid-Public Links Championship by shooting 66 in the fiinal round -- without making a birdie. Instead, he got to 6 under by making three eagles.
On Tuesday, in the first round of the Senior Open, he was 2 under on the par 4s (3 birdies, 1 bogey), 2 under on the 5s (2 birdies) -- and 6 over on the par 3s (1 bogey, 1 double and 1 triple). He probably needed an abacus to calculate his score, but when he got done with the math, it added up to 73. His scorecard for the second-round 69 on Wednesday was pretty tame by comparison -- 3 birdies, 1 bogey -- but it was unusual for him in that he didn't birdie any of the par 5s.
Wisconsin State Senior Open
At Maple Bluff Country Club
Par 71, 6,301 yards
1. Tony Rohlik, Mesa, Ariz. (p) 71-67--138
2. Derek Stendahl, Maple Grove (p) 68-71--139
3. J.T. Johnson, Eden Prairie (a) 73-69--142
4. Michael Crowley, Fox Pt., Wis. (p) 70-73--143
T5. Jim Gaugert, Lake Geneva, Wis. (p) 72--72--144
T5. Jim Wakely, Onalaska, Wis. (a) 76-68--144
T5. Jim Schuman, Menomonee Falls, Wis. (p) 71-73--144
T5. Robert Gregorski, Menasha, Wis. (a) 72-72--144
T5. Rocky Sperka, New Berlin, Wis. (a) 70-74--144
10. Tom Chambers, Union Grove, Wis. (a) 73-72--145