Todd Westrich drove past the gates Monday on his way into the Golf Courses of Lawsonia in Green Lake, hoping his stay on the Links Course for the Wisconsin State Senior Match Play Championship would extend deep into the week.
"It's truly been one of my favorite courses in the state over the years," the 56-year-old from De Pere said. "I love the vibe there. It's not a pretentious place. It's a laid-back vibe. It's a laid-back place that has a special charm there that I adore and love."
In other words, Lawsonia Links was the perfect fit for a guy who is only beginning to explore the potential and the opportunities golf has for him at his age.
Westrich completed a remarkable run through some of the state's top senior amateurs Thursday by dispatching Rocky Sperka of New Berlin — the 2020 WSGA state senior player of the year — with a 5 and 4 victory in the championship match. Westrich won the second hole with a par and then played his next three holes in 2-under-par on his way to winning five consecutive holes and taking a 5-up lead six holes into the final match.
"I got out to an unexpected early lead and at that point, knowing how good of a player Rocky is, I just wanted to make a bunch of pars," said Westrich, who made seven in a row after a bogey at No. 7 to close out the 2017 champion. "If he comes back and makes a lot of birdies, fine. I didn't want to open the door for him."
For Westrich, the championship match was a reflection of how well he played all week.
The only time he saw the 18th tee after Monday's stroke-play qualifying came Tuesday afternoon as he walked off the 17th green with a 2 and 1 win over two-time champion Kevin Cahill of Waukesha in the second round. His other signature victory came in the semifinals where he eliminated two-time Wisconsin State Amateur champion Bob Gregorski of Menasha 4 and 3 by playing his final seven holes in 2-under.
"I played some really good players in this, senior legends like Kevin Cahill and Bob Gregorski and Rocky," Westrich said. "I have nothing but respect and admiration for these guys and how good they've been over the years. To go through that gauntlet was extra gratifying."
To finish off the week the way he did was rewarding, too.
As a bit of a mist lingered from storms that dropped close to 3 inches of rain on the famed Links Course, Westrich and Sperka halved No. 1 with bogeys. After Westrich won No. 2 with a par, Sperka hit his approach on the 380-yard fourth hole to 12 feet, but Westrich answered the call and drained his 20-footer for birdie before Sperka missed his to fall 2-down after three holes.
A two-putt par 3 at No. 4 stretched Westrich's lead to 3-up before he hit 3-wood to 12 feet on his second shot to the 485-yard, par-5, two-putting for a birdie and a 4-up lead. "That was probably the best shot I hit all week," Westrich said.
By that point, there was no stopping Westrich, an account executive for The Elite Group, a promotional products company.
"Todd was solid and I didn't have my best (game), but sometimes your opponent causes you to do that," said Sperka, who conceded No. 6 after he hit his drive into the fescue and was unable to find his provisional ball, either, and — after cutting Westrich's lead to 4-up by winning No. 7 with a par — could do no better than match six of Westrich's seven pars before the match was decided.
"I give him all the credit. He was going to be tough to beat no matter what."
The victory was Westrich's first in a WSGA event since 2011 Governor's Cup, a 36-hole competition for golfers between age 40 and 55, when he outlasted Gregorski in a playoff. The event was discontinued in 2014 and replaced with the WSGA Mid-Amateur Championship.
"It's a new world for me," Westrich said of the senior ranks. "I look around and I see all of these guys I've been banging heads with for years. They're the same guys who are as skilled as always. There are a lot of really good senior players so to drive out of that parking lot (Thursday) to know I was the last man standing was an electric feeling."