Owen Butler sat on his one-stroke lead for two hours, waiting for thunderstorms to move through.
When the radar cleared, the 34-year-old Milton native kept the electricity in the air at Riverside Golf Course.
Butler emerged from the delay by making three consecutive birdies to pull away from his nearest challengers. He didn’t make a bogey all day, carded a 9-under-par 63 that was a shot off the course record and beat Eau Claire’s Matt Tolan by three shots in a Ray Fischer Amateur Championship that was shortened to 54 holes because of the storms.
“I knew I was up one when we restarted ... on No. 5 and went birdie-birdie-birdie. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was six (birdies) in the first seven holes on that nine,” Butler said. “So that was fun. The best round I’ve ever played.”
“To win this tournament is awesome. I grew up up the road in Milton and actually never played this course very well in high school. But I’ve really learned how to play it and enjoy this tournament.”
Jack Schultz, the two-time defending Fischer champ, closed with a round of 67 to finish five strokes back in third place.
Butler had several top-20 finishes in the past, but his previous best finish was eighth place.
After posting back-to-back rounds of 67 to open the tournament, Butler trailed Tolan by one shot heading into what is typically a 36-hole Sunday at the Fischer. But Butler knew, based on the forecast, the event could be shortened if there was a lengthy delay, and all the players know the course is typically set up to go low in the third round.
“I went out thinking it was a possibility this was going to be 54 holes,” Butler said. “So just try and go low here.
“Then, knowing what holes we had left (after the delay) and knowing those guys, six is an eagle hole, seven they’re going to drive it up by the green and eight knowing where the pin was ... I knew I was going to have to make some birdies.”
Tolan led after each of the first two rounds thanks to a 65 and a 68.
After adding a 67 that included finishing those final five holes in 1-under, the 20-year-old University of South Dakota golfer said he couldn’t be disappointed in his second-place finish.
“I played really well,” Tolan said. “I just have to tip my cap to Owen, because the guy made a birdie run on the front nine and played super consistent golf. It was fun to watch.
“I’m for sure happy with the three rounds I played. Sixteen-under out here, you can’t complain. If you shoot 16-under and get beat, you’ve just got to tell them, ‘Good playing.’”
Schultz, of Whitefish Bay, trailed Tolan by two heading into the final round and trailed Butler by two coming out of the delay but played the final five holes in even par.
Waukesha’s Michael Bielawski finished fourth at 11-under, while Greendale’s Nate Thomson and Kenosha’s Travis Engle tied at 10-under to round out the top five.
Tony Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, carded a final-round 66 to finish seventh at 9-under.
But the day and tournament belonged to Butler, who made just two bogeys all tournament—both in his opening round. The three birdies out of the delay gave him five in a row overall on the way to shooting a front-nine 30.
The victory was especially sweet to Butler because his father, Ed, who still resides in Milton, and family friend Bob Stalsberg were on hand to watch him close out the tournament.
“I’ve played well here the first day before, but usually I follow it up with something mediocre the second day,” said Butler, who turned professional earlier in his career but regained his amateur status in 2012. “I played good in my second round this time but knew I could go even a little lower, and my putter was hot all weekend. That’s what it takes to win here, because you have to go low.
“This is one of the big ones in the state, so I’m very happy and honored to win it.”
A 54-hole Fischer is not unprecedented.
In 2013, Kyle Henning shot 207 over three rounds and then won the tournament with an eagle on the first playoff hole.
In 2006, Janesville’s Matt Behm rode his course-record 62 to a three-round total of 194 and a title.
The tournament was just 36 holes at Cherokee Country Club in 1978.
“I’m excited it was only 54 holes, because I don’t want to have to go back and hold those guys off,” Butler said. “Matt and Jack can really, really play.”
Ray Fischer Amateur Championship
At Riverside (Par 72)
Final (Event shortened to 54 holes due to thunderstorms)
Owen Butler, Stoughton 67-67-63—197
Matt Tolan, Eau Claire 65-68-67—200
Jack Schultz, Whitefish Bay 70-65-67—202
Michael Bielawski, Waukesha 69-67-69—205
Nate Thomson, Greendale 71-68-67—206
Travis Engle, Kenosha 67-70-69—206
Tony Romo, Burlington 69-72-66—207
Chris Colla, Fond du Lac 69-70-69—208
Joe DuChateau, Fond du Lac 73-72-64—209
Pete Kuhl, Madison 69-71-69—209
George Kneiser, Oconomowoc 70-68-71—209
Tyler Leach, Spring Valley 67-76-67—210
Michael Harris, Brookfield 70-71-69—210
Joe Weber, Onalaska 69-69-72—210
Emmet Herb, Middleton 71-73-67—211
Adam Miller, Adams 70-72-69—211
Nick Robinson, Madison 72-73-67—212
Samuel Anderson, Stoughton 72-74-66—212
Philip Johnson, Colgate 72-71-69—212
Ben Skogen, Onalaska 72-72-68—212
Jakob Garstecki, Germantown 70-72-70—212
Ricky Kuiper, Racine 67-74-71—212
Daniel Ozga, Edgerton 70-75-68—213
Max Pasher, Mequon 71-74-68—213
Chris Wood, Mount Pleasant 69-74-70—213
Maxwell Schmidtke, Sheboygan 73-69-71—213
Sam Van Galder, Janesville 71-74-69—214
Dustin Schwab, Hartland 72-74-68—214
Jack Blair, Wauwatosa 70-74-70—214
Nathan Schwarz, Hutto, Texas 71-71-72—214
Alan Thompson, Watertown 71-69-74—214
Blake Wisdom, Lake Geneva 69-77-69—215
Kevin Van Rossum, Hartland 74-70-71—215
Brad Finger, Waukesha 72-72-71—215
Kevin Cahill, Waukesha 75-70-71—216
Zachary Nash, Waterford 71-75-70—216
Drew Sagrillo, Mequon 71-75-70—216
Jakob Schroeckenthaler, Cottage Grove 72-75-69—216
Jacob Michel, Lodi 71-73-72—216
Tom Halla, Colgate 74-69-73—216
Andrew Morrison, Edgerton 71-77-68—216
Kirk Leitzen, Brodhead 77-72-67—216
Clayton Tribus, Madison 71-78-67—216
Nathan Boltz, Elkhorn 78-67-72—217
George Pirkl, Oconomowoc 74-72-71—217
Jeremy Wesemann, Merton 77-67-73—217
Michael Bastian, Milwaukee 73-74-70—217
Patrick Sicula, Whitefish Bay 73-69-75—217
Dawson HInz, Middleton 72-74-72—218
Tyler Beeck, Sheboygan Falls, 75-71-72—218
Brady Sarauer, Fond du Lc 74-71-73—218
Eric Goldapske, Sun Prairie 75-72-71—218
Dylan Brown, Reedsburg 76-72-70—218
Logan Kranz, Madison 76-73-69—218
Alexander Haas, Hartford 73-74-72—219
Jacob Mayer, Delafield 75-72-72—219
Ben Giles, Madison 72-76-71—219
Matt Behm, Valders 74-74-71—219
Mike Mueller, Whitefish Bay 73-72-75—220
Christopher Dupuis, Chicago 72-74-74—220
Jacob Beckman, Middleton 75-71-74—220
Jason Zahradka, New Richmond 75-71-74—220
Bentley Glass, Fort Atkinson 76-71-73—220
Nick Corban, Madison 76-72-72—220
Charles Maleki, Mequon 75-72-74—221
RJ Schwalbach, Bolingbrook, Ill. 73-75-73—221
Jonathan Duggan Jr., Lake Geneva 71-78-72—221
Michael Oellerich, Brodhead 75-74-73—222
Burke Barsamian, Lake Geneva 70-75-78—223
Nick Hagen, Beloit 73-75-75—223
Colton Duwe, Oconomowoc 70-78-76—224
Eric Ross, Onekama, Mich. 75-73-76—224
Bennett Swavely, Hudson 74-75-75—224
Bill Crinzi, New Berlin 73-74-76—225
Joseph Ploch, Oconomowoc 75-74-76—225
Jack Anderson, Brookfield 75-74-76—225
Charles Buhrow, Brookfield 74-75-78—227
Tom Schoewe, Sun Prairie 74-74-81—229
Jackson Rehm, Franklin 75-74-80—229