OMAHA — Caleb Badura admits he didn't envision a long stay this week at The Players Club, the site of the Nebraska Match Play Championship.
"I was just trying to get into match play, honestly," Badura said in reference to making the cutoff after the two stroke-play qualifying rounds. "I missed the cut last year, so I didn't even play in match (play)."
But the Aurora graduate and two-time state high school champion got quite comfortable here, especially on Friday. Badura topped Omaha's Dan Huston in the 36-hole final, cruising to a 9 and 7 victory to win his first Nebraska Match Play Championship. It was the fifth-largest winning margin in 52 years of the tournament.
After missing a par attempt out of a bunker, Huston conceded a birdie putt on the 11th hole, ending the match at 29 holes.
It was an impressive round of golf, and an impressive week for Badura, who just finished his freshman season at Northwestern College in Iowa. Badura defeated 2004 champion Travis Minzel in the first round and 2013 champ Andy Sajevic in the quarterfinals.
"That's a ton of confidence," Badura said.
He outlasted a field of 98 golfers to become the fourth golfer under the age of 20 to win the Nebraska Match Play and first since 1979. His growing list of credentials also includes two Class B state championships and a Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament crown.
Behind a strong putter, Badura carried a lot of momentum into his final against Huston. He was 4-up after the first 18 holes, and then won the next three holes after the break to take a commanding lead.
"I just pretty much kept the same game plan and just tried to play my game," Badura said. "I just had a little competition with myself, see what I could shoot, kind of play to stroke play and not focus so much on my opponent. I kept that mentality all week and I think it paid off.
An impressive short game paid off, too. Badura said he carried a hot putter from last week's Dinsdale Classic in Grand Island.
"I was just seeing my lines really well, and the speed was awesome," Badura said. "I knew if I could get it on the green, I'd have a look. I had a ton of par saves this week, probably the most I've had in a tournament, so that was good to see."
Rain and wind were factors during the morning round, but that didn't stop Badura, who had back-to-back birdies on Nos. 12 and 13 in the morning to take a 5-up advantage.
"I'm kind of used to it with high school and college golf," Badura said of the conditions. "That's all we play in, it seems like. That was an advantage, as well."
Huston, playing on his membership course, still managed his best finish in an NGA event.
"I just felt like in the afternoon, if I could go get a couple back on that first nine I would at least give myself a chance on the back nine," said Huston, who played baseball at Hastings College. "There's a ton of birdies on the back nine and I needed to try to cut into that lead and, unfortunately, it just didn't go that way. (Caleb) kind of kept the pedal down and kept making putts."