There will be a number of people following Great Bend’s Steve Gotsche, who will be competing in the 34th U.S. Senior Open Championship on July 11-14 in Omaha, Neb.
The 51-year-old Gotsche, the golf professional at The Club at StoneRidge, qualified for next week’s event during a sectional on June 20 at Arborlinks Golf Course in Nebraska City after shooting a 1-over 73. The other two of the three qualifiers out of the 100-plus golfers are Topeka’s Mark Elliott and Darron Hughes of Stillwater, Okla.
For Gotsche, who was an All-Big Eight Conference golfer at the University of Nebraska after spending one year at Barton Community College, it is his first Senior PGA event.
“It’s something I’m really looking forward to,” said Gotsche, who has competed in nine U.S. Open events on the PGA Tour over the years (1985, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 2003 and 2004). “I have a lot of friends and family that will be making the trip to Omaha next week.
“I’m sure there will be some of my friends from the University of Nebraska there, too.”
Gotsche, who grew up in a golfing family, won a state golf championship at Great Bend High School, which undoubtedly helped light his competitive fire.
“We call him ‘Hack.’ I taught him everything he knows,” joked Gotsche’s sister, Pam Gabel, a school teacher in Dodge City, who grew up in Great Bend, and was following him in a cart at StoneRidge on Wednesday afternoon as he was playing a practice round.
“I played for KU,” she added. “We’d go out when we were little kids, seven, eight and nine, and our parents would dump us off at the golf course and we’d spend all day there.”
It looks as though it certainly paid off.
“He’s the only guy that has won all three events in Kansas — the Kansas Junior Golf Championship, the Kansas Amateur and the Kansas Open,” said Gotsche’s longtime friend, Don “Bubba” Young, who was riding in a cart with Gabel. “A lot of people don’t realize just how good of a golfer he is.”
Gotsche, who has recorded six professional victories, joined the PGA Tour in 1994. In his rookie year, he recorded the best tour finish of his career, capturing fifth place at the New England Classic.
After joining the Nationwide Tour in 1996, Gotsche played in only three events from 1997 and 1998. In 1999, he had a breakthrough year, winning both the Monterrey Open and NIKE Upstate Classic.
Gotsche’s most recent win came in 2008 in the PGA Midwest Section Championship.