Challenging Riverside leaves three-way tie atop Fischer leaderboard

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Eric Schmoldt
Friday, June 27, 2014

JANESVILLE--Those who showed up at Riverside Golf Course on Friday expecting a birdie bonanza got a bit of a wakeup call.

The entrants in the 48th Ray Fischer State Medal Play Championship battled the breeze and challenging pin placements in the first round.

The result was a three-way tie at the top at 4-under 68. Stoughton's Henry Klongland posted his score in the morning wave, and Sussex's Jake Wisniewski and Caledonia's John Staehler followed suit in the afternoon to carry a one-shot lead into today's second round.

Middleton's Mitch Johnson and Stoughton's Owen Butler—a Milton native—were one stroke back. Just 14 players shot under par.

“Looking at the scores, I didn't even know they were that high,” said Wisniewski, who graduated last month from UW-Parkside. “I made some crucial putts on the last two holes … and just hung in there.

“I chipped in (for eagle) on 14 from about 35 yards out. That was nice.”

It's Wisniewski's third time playing in the Fischer. He's made the cut twice but has never been in contention thanks to mediocre opening rounds. This year, Friday's round was bogey-free, and he added birdies at the difficult first hole and the 10th to go along with his eagle.

Klongland, who just wrapped up his freshman year playing for Marquette, was just happy to see his game back on track. He started out hot in the fall but struggled a bit this spring.

“I finally struck the ball well and hit a lot of greens,” said Klongland, who battled back late in his round after bogeying three of four holes sandwiching the turn. “When I do that, I can score.

“I don't know what it was (this spring). I lost some confidence, I guess, when I shot a couple bad scores. But it was a good learning experience.”

Staehler is usually happy with making the cut in the Fischer, but he slept on the lead Friday night thanks to shooting 3-under without a bogey on the back nine.

“I made enough birdies to cover up the bogeys,” he said. “I enjoy the golf course. It's in perfect condition, and it's a fun group of guys.”

His foursome had a particularly fun day. Just five players fired rounds in the 60s, and two came in that group thanks to Butler's 69.

“Playing with guys that are playing good is always fun,” Butler said. “The three guys I was playing with (Staehler, Monroe's Charlie Baumann and Fond du Lac's Jared Magoline) were just awesome guys, and that helps you stay relaxed.”

Butler also played bogey-free on his back nine and birdied both par 5s.

Johnson would have been the leader in the clubhouse if not for a double bogey on 18, the only blemish on his card.

The average score on Day 1 was a 77.61. The par-5 sixth and 14th were the only holes that played under par.

The full field will play 18 holes again today before those outside the top 70 are cut leading up to Sunday's 36-hole marathon finish.

“I've never exactly played this course great, but it's fun,” Butler said. “The people that take care of it do an awesome job, and this is kind of a major championship in Wisconsin golf.

“It'll still take double-digit under par to win this, like it always does.”

Van Galder, Botts lead Janesville golfers

Sam Van Galder and Erik Botts were among a pack of golfers that shot 1-under 71 to lead a group of 16 entrants from Janesville.

“If you looked up roller coaster in the dictionary, there is probably a picture of me,” said Van Galder, the four-time and defending city champion. “I had seven birdies and was 4 under through six holes. … I should at least be in the 60s with seven birdies.”

Former Fischer champ Matt Behm, who owns the course record with a 62, and Andy Hagen each carded 72s to open their tournaments.

Defending champ withdraws

Kyle Henning, the tournament's defending champion, was looking forward to defending his championship but was forced to withdraw due to illness.

“The hardest part was prying the trophy from him this morning to bring it back down here,” said his father, Bruce, who shot an opening-round 74. “He got up and tried to swing a club and said he couldn't even follow through.

“He tried everything he could. But he was just too achy and too sore.”

Romo makes an appearance

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, not in the field for the second straight year, was on hand for part of the first round at Riverside on Friday.

The Burlington native spent time visiting with players and cruising around the course in a golf cart.

His father, Ramiro, is in the field and shot a 78.

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