This is the dream that has flickered in the mind of Great Bend’s Steve Gotsche since his most recent win — coming in 2008 in the PGA Midwest Section Championship.
The golf pro at The Club at StoneRidge, Gotsche hasn’t been an active tour player for the better part of the last 12 years, dabbling in tournaments here and there while he and his wife Linda spent more time with their sons, Adam and Ryan.
It all changes today. The 51-year-old Gotsche hits the links as a first-timer on the Senior PGA Tour, teeing off at 2:30 in the opening round of the 34th Annual U.S. Senior Open at Omaha Country Club in Omaha, Neb.
“It’s an older vibe,” Gotsche said on Wednesday morning as he made final preparations for the four-day event. “The key for me is to drive my balls in the fairway and then just be patient. You’re going to make some mistakes, and you can’t have any big numbers.
“You’ve got to take advantage of your good shots. Having not played a whole lot of competition, it’s a little different. But sometimes it works in your favor.”
Expect a large gallery to follow Gotsche, a former All-Big Eight Conference golfer at the University of Nebraska after playing one season at Barton Community College. He was a state golf champion at Great Bend High School in 1979.
After all, Gotsche is the lone Cornhuskers golfer — past or present — taking part in this year’s event.
“I have a lot of people pulling for me,” Gotsche said. “Not only from Great Bend, but since I went to Nebraska, I have a lot of Nebraska people behind me. That could be key, getting on a roll and getting the crowd behind me.
“The momentum just kind of rolls itself. This one might be a little bigger and rowdier, just because they know what I’ve been through the last several years and not playing a whole lot of competition. They know I have some game. It’s just a matter of finding it and getting it going.”
The temperatures soaring into the triple digits could be a factor, according to Gotsche.
“I have taken a few practice rounds the last couple days and it’s been extremely hot, brutal, the last few days,” Gotsche said. “We had a cool front go through here Tuesday.
“I think it’s going to get hot again. I think it will play a factor in some of the field, anyway.”
Gotsche trekked to Omaha recently to take an early gander of the course.
“I came up a couple weeks ago and played it and the rough was much deeper then,” Gotsche said. “It still deep, but it isn’t not stupid deep.
“The greens are pretty soft, so far. I’m sure they’ll try to firm them up. They’re not stupid fast, but they’re slick in spots. The perfect scenario is to drive the ball into the fairway and keep it underneath the hole on the right spots on the green.”
Gotsche, who made nine U.S. Open appearances on the PGA Tour, has posted six professional wins since joining in 1994. His rookie year, he recorded the best tour finish of his career with a fifth-place finish at the New England Classic.
Suffice it to say, it has been an on-again, off-again career for Gotsche.
“I’ve practiced a whole lot since I qualified for this thing, which would have been June 20,” Gotsche said. “I’m going on three weeks now, and I’ve probably done more in the last three weeks than I have in two years.
“I’m pacing myself. I was proud of myself (on Tuesday). Instead of hitting balls off the tee, I said to heck with it and came back to the house and chilled out. In the old days, I probably would have stayed out there and worn myself out.”