Sr Am Winning Handshake

Bob Gregorski, right, and Bruce Henning shake hands after Gregorski defeated Henning on the first playoff hole on Tuesday at the Senior Amateur Championship at the Wisconsin Club.

MILWAUKEE – The record will show that Bob Gregorski of Menasha won the Wisconsin State Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship with a par on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Tuesday at the Wisconsin Club.

What the numbers won’t reflect is how well Brookfield’s Bruce Henning played for 35 holes, three years after beating leukemia. What they won’t reflect is how many quality shots Gregorski hit in the final round, while limping on a bad ankle, and how many times Henning matched him.

What they won’t reflect is the intensity of a hard-fought battle that ended, as so many battles do, with one golfer’s celebration muted by another’s bitter disappointment.

“Bruce played great,” Gregorski said. “I hit a lot of good irons and it seemed like every time I hit a good iron, he hit a good iron on top of me. Coming in the last five, six holes, we kind of knew how tight it was. Every time I hit a good shot, he hit a better shot or as good of a shot.”

Gregorski, one of the winningest amateurs in Wisconsin history, and Henning, who has never won a state-level title, both shot 1-under 71s to break out of a logjam at the top of the leaderboard. They finished the 36-hole tournament at even-par 144, two strokes clear of Brian Drerup of Minocqua.

Drerup held the lead after shooting a 33 on the front nine but was done in by five bogeys on the back. He shot a 73 and finished third alone at 146. Rocky Sperka of New Berlin finished fourth at 147.

It shouldn’t have come down to a playoff. Henning birdied the 17th hole and took a two-shot lead to the par-5 18th, only to three-putt from the front fringe for a bogey. A shaky first putt stopped 5 feet short of the hole, and he missed that one after watching Gregorski bury a 15-footer for birdie – the first putt of any length that he made all day.

“I just couldn’t read it very well,” Henning said of the first putt. “I thought it was going to go downhill a little bit and it didn’t. The second putt, I got out of my routine. The stroke was not what it had been all day. It was 5 or 6 feet. I had made every one of those all day.”

On the first playoff hole, the 389-yard, par-4 10th, Gregorski and Henning both hit the fairway and the green in regulation. Henning’s downhill, 40-foot birdie attempt rolled some 10 feet past the hole. Gregorski cozied his 35-footer down the hill for a tap-in par. Henning missed, and it was over.

Afterward, Henning, 56, smiled through his disappointment and talked about being grateful to be able to play golf, let alone at an elite senior amateur level, after battling leukemia.

Sr Am Henning drive

Bruce Henning hits a drive during final-round play on Tuesday at the Senior Am Championship played at the Wisconsin Club in Milwaukee.

“I’ve worked so hard to come back from cancer,” he said, fighting back tears. “To be here and play that well, it’s awesome. It’s very emotional. If I was going to lose to somebody, Bob’s the guy. It was fun. It was great. I was so proud of myself for 17 holes.”

Henning’s son, Kyle Henning, the 2015 Wisconsin State Open champion, was the donor for his father’s bone marrow transplant.

“My son was my donor, so we have a special bond now even more than we ever have,” Bruce Henning said. “I’m sure he’s going to give me crap about this because he’s got a title and I don’t.”

Said Gregorski, “Bruce hung in there. I was rooting for him. I was rooting for myself, obviously, trying hard, but I was rooting for him, too. I know he’s got some (health) issues going on. He didn’t play like it, that’s for sure.”

Gregorski went into the tournament with his own issues. He turned 60 last week and, hard as it is to believe, was still searching for his first individual victory as a senior. He had won virtually everything else in his Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame career, including the WSGA Senior 2-Man Team and Senior Four-ball titles. But the state Senior Open and Senior Amateur titles had eluded him.

What’s more, he was wearing a sleeve on his left ankle and limping noticeably, the lingering effects of a Lisfranc injury he suffered when he fell out of a boat last summer.

“I took a lot of Advil today,” he said with a laugh. “It was fine. I said to my wife, I came here, my foot hurts, but I really wanted to play. And then as I’m walking to the range, I see 50 percent of the field is limping. Nobody is going to shed a tear if you have a bad foot, right?”

At the start of the day, 15 players were within two shots of the lead. Kevin Cahill of Waukesha and Drerup took turns atop the leader board early, but after Drerup faltered, Gregorski and Henning were left to fight for the title.

Gregorski birdied the par-5 third and fifth holes and then made eight consecutive pars, missing a 5-foot birdie putt on No. 8, lipping out an 8-footer on No. 10 and failing to convert on a couple of others in the 12- to 18-foot range.

Sr Am gregorski putt

Bob Gregorski follows his putt on the ninth hole on Tuesday at the Wisconsin Club.

“I was hitting fairways. I was hitting greens. I was hitting a lot of good irons,” he said. “I just figured I was going to make a birdie at some point. And, truthfully, I hit a lot of good putts. A lot of them hit the hole and it was just one of those days where they weren’t going in.”

Henning took a one-shot lead when Gregorski bogeyed No. 14 after hitting his only bad shot of the day, an approach that finished well short of the green. Then, Henning rolled in a 10-footer on the short par-4 17th to stretch his lead to two.

Gregorski figured he needed to eagle the 504-yard, par-5 closing hole and blasted a drive that split the fairway. He had 230 yards left, hit a perfect 5-wood and grabbed his putter, figuring his ball had to be on the green. Except it wasn’t. It rolled off the back and down a steep hill, about 25 yards from the hole.

“I thought I hit my second shot in the middle of the green, so I was kind of surprised where I was,” he said.

He elected to putt up the steep hill and through some 20 feet of fringe, but his ball stopped 15 feet short of the cup.

“It was kind of wet down there and getting a little dark and that’s why I putted it,” he said. “The lie was tight, the grain was going into me and as the sun goes down, my eyesight isn’t quite as good, you know? And so, I thought my best chance was putting it. I didn’t hit a very good first putt, but obviously I hit a good second putt.”

It was a gut punch to Henning, who then missed his 5-footer for par.

“I knew if I gave Bob a chance, I was in trouble,” he said.

And so, Gregorski has his first individual senior amateur title. And Henning has something nearly as precious – the satisfaction of battling one of the state’s best down the stretch and nearly coming out on top.

“Three years ago, I was in a hospital bed, dreaming about being able to do this,” he said. “Every day is a blessing. To play golf good, too? That’s just icing on top. I hope I can just keep playing this way and enjoying it. Every day, I’m going to go out there and enjoy life, no matter what it is.”

POS
 
PLAYER
TOTAL
THRU
TODAY
R1
R2
STROKES
 
1
Arrow Up
 1
Robert Gregorski  Menasha, Wi (p)EF-17371144 
2
Arrow Up
 2
Bruce Henning  Brookfield, WiEF-17371144 
3
Arrow Down
 1
Brian Drerup  Minocqua, WI+2F+17373146 
4
Arrow Up
 4
Rocky Sperka  New Berlin, Wi+3F+17473147 
5-Charles Weber  Milwaukee, WI+4F+37375148 
6
Arrow Up
 2
Steve Broadwell  New Berlin, WI+5F+37475149 
T7
Arrow Down
 6
Kevin Cahill  Waukesha, WI+7F+67378151 
T7
Arrow Up
 7
Mike Murphy  Minocqua, WI+7F+47576151 
T7
Arrow Up
 10
Chuck Garbedian  Waukesha, WI+7F+37675151 
T7
Arrow Up
 20
Tom Cabush  Waukesha, WI+7F+17873151 
T11
Arrow Down
 6
John Wittkowske  Shorewood, Wi+8F+77379152 
T11
Arrow Down
 6
Dave Ullenberg  Milwaukee, Wi+8F+77379152 
13
Arrow Up
 7
JT Johnson  Eden Prairie, MN+9F+47776153 
T14
Arrow Up
 3
Dan Wucherer  Waupun, WI+10F+67678154 
T14
Arrow Up
 6
Paul Zarek  Burlington, Wi+10F+57777154 
T14
Arrow Up
 13
Todd Westrich  De Pere+10F+47876154 
T17
Arrow Down
 9
Mike Greb  Racine, WI+11F+97481155 
T17
Arrow Up
 10
Jeff Knudtson  Delafield, WI+11F+57877155 
T19
Arrow Up
 25
Scott Semingson  Strum, WI+12F+48076156 
T19
Arrow Down
 11
Brian Buss  Eau Claire, WI+12F+107482156 
T19
Arrow Up
 8
Paul Bryant  Wauwatosa, WI+12F+67878156 
T19
Arrow Up
 8
Pat Boyle  Greendale, WI+12F+67878156 
T23
Arrow Down
 15
John Golden  Verona, WI+13F+117483157 
T23
Arrow Down
 15
Ron Stortz  Delafield, WI+13F+117483157 
T23
Arrow Down
 3
John Kestly  Pewaukee, WI+13F+87780157 
T23
Arrow Down
 3
Keith Luedtke  South Milwaukee, Wi+13F+87780157 
T23
Arrow Up
 4
Charlie Baumann  Madison, WI+13F+77879157 
T23
Arrow Up
 4
Todd Cook  Beaver Dam, WI+13F+77879157 
T23
Arrow Up
 15
Randy Shultz  Hartland, WI+13F+67978157 
T23
Arrow Up
 21
Ramiro Romo  Waterford, Wi+13F+58077157 
T31
Arrow Up
 23
Bill Crinzi  New Berlin, WI+14F+58177158 
T31
Arrow Down
 14
Bob Pyle  Green Bay, WI+14F+107682158 
T31
Arrow Down
 4
John Bechard  Wind Lake, WI+14F+87880158 
T31
Arrow Up
 7
Scott Gleason  Oshkosh, Wisconsin+14F+77979158 
T31
Arrow Up
 7
Dick Regenberg  Madison, WI+14F+77979158 
T36
Arrow Down
 16
Michael Fischbach  Milwaukee, WI+15F+107782159 
T36
Arrow Up
 8
Jeffery Lister  Greendale+15F+78079159 
T36
Arrow Up
 8
John Thorpe  Appleton, FL+15F+78079159 
T36
Arrow Down
 22
Mike Smith  Pewaukee, Wi+15F+127584159 
T36
Arrow Down
 16
Steve Etrheim  Plover, WI+15F+107782159 
T36
Arrow Up
 2
Brian Brugger  Franklin, WI+15F+87980159 
T42
Arrow Down
 4
Kurt Hoppe  Wisconsin Rapids, WI+16F+97981160 
T42
Arrow Up
 2
Bob Kohl  Pewaukee, WI+16F+88080160 
44-Paul Schwarz  Appleton+17F+98081161 
T45
Arrow Up
 22
Robert Garren  Kenosha, WI+18F+68478162 
T45
Arrow Down
 31
Bill Feehan, Jr.  La Crosse+18F+157587162 
T45
Arrow Down
 18
John Uekert  West Bend, WI+18F+127884162 
T45
Arrow Down
 18
Bill Schneider  Appleton, WI+18F+127884162 
T45
Arrow Down
 7
Chuck Silkey  Cedarburg, WI+18F+117983162 
T50
Arrow Up
 9
Dan Gibbon  West Bend, WI+19F+88380163 
T50
Arrow Up
 9
James Lansing  West Allis, WI+19F+88380163 
T50
Arrow Down
 6
Stu Bloom  Waukesha+19F+118083163 
T50
Arrow Up
 5
Tom Thompson  DePere, WI+19F+98281163 
T50
Arrow Down
 30
Jim Socha  Onalaska, WI+19F+147786163 
T55
Arrow Up
 4
Allan Zuleger  Winneconne, WI+20F+98381164 
T55
Arrow Up
 4
Marv Nelson  Burlington, WI+20F+98381164 
T55
Arrow Up
 12
John McNeil  Hartland, WI+20F+88480164 
T55
Arrow Up
 12
Jerry Gitlewski  Sussex+20F+88480164 
T59-Brian Hale  Sherwood, Wi+21F+108382165 
T59
Arrow Up
 8
Jeff Kjorlien  Hubertus, WI+21F+98481165 
T59
Arrow Down
 15
Jim Rollefson  Franklin, WI+21F+138085165 
T62
Arrow Down
 18
Jim Maas  Milwaukee, WI+22F+148086166 
T62
Arrow Up
 14
Jamie Young  Kenosha, WI+22F+88680166 
T62
Arrow Down
 7
Glenn Dahl  Verona, WI+22F+128284166 
T65
Arrow Down
 6
Dan Mroczenski  Nashotah, WI+23F+128384167 
T65
Arrow Down
 6
Pat Hintze  New Berlin, WI+23F+128384167 
T65
Arrow Up
 2
Mike Filkouski  Marshall, WI+23F+118483167 
T65
Arrow Down
 10
Mike Kehoe  South Milwaukee, WI+23F+138285167 
T65
Arrow Down
 38
Michael Borgen  Onalaska, WI+23F+177889167 
T65
Arrow Down
 21
Bill Bull  Oregon, WI+23F+158087167 
71
Arrow Up
 5
Steve Jaeger  Brookfield, WI+24F+108682168 
72
Arrow Up
 2
James Deuster  Mukwonago, WI+25F+128584169 
73
Arrow Down
 6
Didier Ibar  New Berlin, WI+27F+158487171 
T74
Arrow Down
 15
Mike Schoonveld  Middleton, WI+28F+178389172 
T74
Arrow Up
 5
Guy Roe  Minocqua, WI+28F+138785172 
76-Steven Junger  Fox Point, WI+29F+158687173 
T77
Arrow Down
 10
Patrick Garvens  Milwaukee, WI+30F+188490174 
T77
Arrow Down
 3
Tom Wilson  LaCrescent, MN+30F+178589174 
T79
Arrow Up
 8
Mark Cuthbert  Hartland, WI+31F+119283175 
T79-Stephen Grimm  Kenosha, WI+31F+168788175 
T79
Arrow Down
 24
Ron Long  Ripon, WI+31F+218293175 
T82
Arrow Down
 1
Tim Filtz  West Bend, WI+35F+188990179 
T82
Arrow Up
 2
Kevin Entwistle  Oregon, WI+35F+179089179 
84
Arrow Up
 6
James Winistorfer  Mequon, WI+37F+149586181 
85
Arrow Down
 1
Tom Krause  Waukesha, WI+39F+219093183 
T86
Arrow Down
 5
Gene McDaniel  Pewaukee, WI+41F+248996185 
T86-Derek Felske  Milwaukee, WI+41F+229194185 
T88
Arrow Down
 7
Harry Markos  Shorewood, WI+42F+258997186 
T88
Arrow Down
 1
Timothy Terry  Mequon, Wi+42F+229294186 
90
Arrow Down
 3
Michael Galezio  Hartford, WI+44F+249296188 
91
Arrow Down
 1
Dan Jelinek  Iron Ridge, WI+45F+229594189 
DID NOT FINISH
WD-Ed Stremlow  Germantown, WI+10  82 82 
WD-Jim Scharnberg  Franklin, WI+11  83 83 
WD-Pat Griffin  Madison, WI+17  89 89 
WD-Jim Hein  Pewaukee, WI+19  91 91 
WD-Scott Smith  Oneida, WI       
POS
 
PLAYER
TOTAL
THRU
TODAY
R1
R2
STROKES
 
(p) denotes won playoff, * denotes a 10th hole start

More from this Section