Alex Schaake eyed a 20-foot putt at Champions Run in Omaha and put aside all that was at stake.
The University of Iowa golfer grew up playing on the course. He was competing in the Nebraska Match Play Championship, the only significant event in his home state he had yet to win.
And he needed to make that putt just to force extra holes. If not, he would face the embarrassment of being ousted in the opening round.
Schaake’s putt fell. He ended up winning that match on the second playoff hole. He went on to win the entire event, giving him nine Nebraska Golf Association titles, tied for the most in state history.
All by the age of 20.
And his excellent summer of golfing was just beginning. It will conclude in two weeks at historic Pebble Beach in California.
“That boosted my confidence,” Schaake said Wednesday of his late-June putt in Omaha. “I would have been pretty disappointed to go out it in the first round of the state match play. And it was at my home course, too, so that was huge.
“I feel like I’ve really taken a big step with my game this summer.”
Schaake shot 13-under par last week to win his third consecutive Nebraska Amateur tournament. Only two other men can make that claim.
He made a 25-foot putt on the last hole to qualify for his first Web.com event, the Pinnacle Bank Championships in Omaha.
And he breezed into the U.S. Amateur championship at Pebble Beach to cap a stirring summer that will propel him into his junior season as a Hawkeye. He was so steady that day that his round included 10 birdies, no bogeys, and not one glance at the leaderboard.
“I just knew that I didn’t think anybody was going to beat me,” Schaake said. “I just think I’ve gotten more sharp with every aspect of my golf game.”
Schaake was born in Waterloo and moved with his family to Fremont, Nebraska, when he was a year old. Older brother Carson got him hooked on golf at a young age and by high school Alex was among the best players in Nebraska.
Carson Schaake came back to Iowa to play college golf. Alex was there the day Carson won a Big Ten Conference championship. Alex followed him to Iowa City, turning down opportunities to golf at Nebraska or Kansas.
“He taught me so much about the college life and how to get through it all my first semester,” Alex said of Carson. “We have a different personality, a different style of golf and how we practice. He’s a little bit more conservative and a little bit more independent than I am. He doesn’t like to be around anyone when he’s practicing, when he’s in the zone. I’m just a little more laid-back than he is.
“But I wouldn’t be who I am if he didn’t play golf.”
Carson Schaake will put his pro golf career on hold for a week to join the whole family at Pebble Beach to cheer Alex on at the U.S. Amateur. Schaake will test himself against a field of 300-plus at a venue he has seen only on television.
He admitted he was extremely nervous when he stepped to the first tee at the Pinnacle Bank Championship, where he failed to make the cut. Schaake will try not to become too absorbed in the atmosphere at Pebble Beach, though he knows it won’t be easy.
“I’m going to take it all in. But when I step on the first tee on the first day, I’m going to be all business. I’m going to be focused and ready to go,” Schaake said.
Carson Schaake has never gotten to play at Pebble Beach. Alex was asked if he might remind his brother of that fact when they’re soaking up a golfer's paradise.
“No,” Alex Schaake said with a laugh.
“I have to play well first before I do that.”
That hasn’t been a problem for him so far this summer.