Wisconsin Natives Return Home for Senior Open Golf Victory
After decades away, two talented golfers returned to their home state of Wisconsin to compete in the Wisconsin State Senior Open at Maple Bluff Country Club. Tony Rohlik, 54, originally from Eau Claire, and Derek Stendahl, 52, a Middleton native, made their triumphant homecoming to the state after establishing successful professional golf careers out of state.
Chippewa Valley Standout Claims Senior Open Title: Tony Rohlik’s 25-Year Redemption Story
Rohlik, a legendary amateur golfer in the Chippewa Valley Golf Association (CVGA), emerged victorious in his first Wisconsin tournament in over 25 years. Shooting a bogey-free final round 67, Rohlik finished the 36-hole event at 4-under par 138 to earn a one-stroke victory over Stendahl.
The win carried special meaning for Rohlik, who was inducted into the CVGA Hall of Fame in 2021. “It’s exhilarating. I’m already getting texts from all my Wisconsin and Minnesota buddies,” Rohlik remarked about claiming the senior open title when returning to Wisconsin.
Rohlik’s victory was even more remarkable, considering Maple Bluff Country Club was the site of his first State Amateur appearance in 1987 after graduating high school. He expressed his affection for the course and eagerness to return specifically for the senior open tournament.
After a successful amateur career where he won 21 CVGA events, Rohlik turned professional in 1994 and moved to Minnesota before settling in Arizona in 2000. He has qualified for seven PGA Tour events, including the renowned Waste Management Phoenix Open three times.
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Former Middleton Star Finishes Runner-Up
Rohlik’s chief competitor, Stendahl, left Wisconsin in 1996 to become the general manager at Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove, Minnesota. He has been one of the top players in the Minnesota PGA Section for over two decades.
The Middleton native last played as an assistant golf pro in a Wisconsin tournament in the mid-1990s. Stendahl shared his excitement about returning home to compete and reminisced fondly about his previous experiences playing at Maple Bluff as an amateur.
After a stellar high school career under his famous coach, father Dewey, at Middleton High, Stendahl played collegiately for two years at UW-Whitewater. He then transferred to Mississippi State to complete his college golf career.
Stendahl took a one-stroke lead over Rohlik into the final round after shooting an opening 68. However, his title hopes faded as a costly bogey on the 16th hole gave Rohlik the advantage. Despite Stendahl’s valiant effort, Rohlik sealed the victory with a birdie on the 17th hole.
Late Rain Fails to Deter Senior Open Leaders
On the tournament’s final day, the leaders briefly contended with a rain shower during Stendahl’s play on the 17th hole. While the moisture affected his grip on the club, Stendahl persevered but could not sink a birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff versus Rohlik.
Beyond the top two, other notable finishes included JT Johnson from Minnesota securing third place at 142 as the low amateur. Johnson closed with a 3-under 69 in the final round.
Michael Crowley of Fox Point finished fourth with a total score of 143 after two solid rounds. Defending senior open champion Jim Schuman shot 144 to tie for fifth, along with four other players.
Homecoming Tournament Showcases Veterans’ Skills
The Wisconsin State Senior Open marked a special homecoming for Rohlik and Stendahl after decades away from competitive golf in the state. Both golfers met the tournament’s eligibility requirements of graduating from a Wisconsin high school and playing collegiate golf in-state earlier in their careers.
Their impressive play highlighted the veterans’ skills honed over many years on the links. Rohlik showcased his consistency and nerves of steel en route to the title. Meanwhile, the runner-up, Stendahl, displayed his poise and shotmaking abilities, making him a Minnesota golf legend.
In addition to claiming the $2,000 top prize, Rohlik’s victory was a heartwarming homecoming. Returning to Wisconsin after years of establishing himself professionally out of state, he showed he still has what it takes to conquer the state’s top senior amateurs.
Stendahl also proved he could contend with Wisconsin’s best again, validating his accomplishments in Minnesota with an impressive second-place finish. The senior open revitalized a friendly rivalry between the two Badger State natives as they reconnect with their amateur roots.
Wisconsin Proudly Welcomes Back Native Sons
Rohlik and Stendahl’s Wisconsin homecoming exemplified the state’s pride in seeing local golf talents return home to compete at a high level. Their journey from standout high school and college players to seasoned professionals mirrors Wisconsin’s legacy of developing top-tier golfers.
The senior open offered a perfect opportunity for these golf wanderers to return home, combining nostalgia with their competitive fire. Their impressive play is a testament to their talent, hard work over many years, and lasting connection to Wisconsin golf.
In the glow of national television coverage, Rohlik and Stendahl represented their Wisconsin roots and home state fans admirably. Beyond the pride and joy of victory, their presence and performance embodied the spirit and community of Wisconsin golf.