By Ken MacLeod
The trees that crowd nearly every fairway at Meadowbrook Country Club in Tulsa can be cruel, but every once in a while they decide to give a golfer a break.
Such was the case for Mike Gotcher of Broken Arrow in his semifinal match against Terry Collier of Bixby in the Oklahoma Golf Association Senior State Amateur Championship Wednesday.
Up one on the 13th tee, Gotcher’s tee shot sailed right into a line of trees close by an out of bounds hazard. The ball caromed back into the fairway, leaving Gotcher a short shot in. He capitalized with a wedge to about 10 feet behind the hole, then jarred the birdie putt for a 2 up lead.
The next hole the trees tried to exact revenge, knocking his tee shot on the par-5 14th down just a 150 yards or so up the fairway. His second shot hit another tree and went backwards across the fairway to the right, leaving him even farther out. A long punch shot finally emerged from the woody grasp, but he still had 190 yards in for his fourth. He then hit a six-iron just over the green into the rough, while Collier was safely on in regulation.
“I told my caddie if I chip that in for par it would break his heart,” said Gotcher. He pulled the flag and did exactly that, and that was pretty much it. Collier, who was being outdriven most of the day by 50 yards or more but made up for it with his accurate fairway woods, finally bowed out when Gotcher ran in a long birdie putt on the 17th green for a 3 and 1 victory.
That catapaulted the former PGA club professional who regained his amateur status in 2010 into the championship match Thursday morning against another first-timer in this event. Eric Gudgel of Stillwater, a rep for Oakley sunglasses, is playing in an OGA event for the first time at age 53 and reached the final with a victory in 20 holes in the quarterfinals against 2019 champion Blake Gibson of Yukon and a 2 up victory in the afternoon over Christopher Laughlin of Edmond.
Gudgel, the father of fast-improving junior Grant Gudgel, 15, of Stillwater High School, entered the event after being inspired by his son’s rapid ascent in the junior ranks, wanting to show him the old man could play a bit as well. He won the Stillwater Country Club championship earlier this summer and Grant was his caddie for the morning match and celebrated with a series of high fives and chest bumps when dad rolled in a birdie putt on the 20th hole to dispatch Gibson in the morning.
“When I signed up for this I had no idea it was six rounds of golf,” Gudgel said. “I just really wanted to play well for Grant and for my other kids. Now to make it here is just really special. This tournament is really special. It feels like I’m playing in the U.S. Open. The OGA does a great job. Beating the former champion Blake in the morning was amazing and I just tried to carry the momentum over this afternoon. Chris is a great player and I really don’t know how I came out on top.
“Tomorrow is house money to me. I just love competing and this is a special place. I just really love seeing how I hold up and handle the nerves. And I’ve been playing some pretty good golf this summer so I had some confidence coming in.”
Gotcher didn’t hit many trees in his first-round match, using spectacular ball striking to dispatch three-time champion Mike Hughett of Owasso 5 and 4. Hughett fought a balky putter, but credited Gotcher with putting relentless pressure on by hitting nearly every fairway and green in regulation, despite not making many of his birdie opportunities.”
When Gotcher worked at Indian Springs Country Club, Collier was a frequent club champion.
“Terry was always the club champion and he was one of the scrappiest players I’ve ever seen,” Gotcher said.
Gotcher didn’t hit it as straight off the tee in the afternoon match, but got his putter rolling with some key par saves plus the birdie putts on 13 and 17.
Oklahoma Golf Association
Senior State Amateur Championship
July 12-15, 2021
Meadowbrook Country Club
Terry Collier, Bixby def. Bruce Maddux, Ponca City 4 and 3
Michael Gotcher, Broken Arrow def. Michael Hughett, Owasso 5 and 4
Eric Gudgel, Stillwater def. Blake Gibson, Yukon 20 holes
Christopher Laughlin, Edmond def. Brian Szymanski, Oklahoma City 1 up
Gotcher def. Collier 3 and 1
Gudgel def. Laughlin 2 up