The Journal Gazette
Sunday, September 12, 2021 1:00 am

Open field vies for Senior City

Fast greens await as event returns to Orchard Ridge

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Thirty-six holes of golf, not much room for error. Not if you want to win.

Tim Wagner knows that going into today's start of the Senior City Championship, a two-day event at Orchard Ridge Country Club, where many of the area's top 50-and-over golfers will compete in a tournament that dates to 1992.

“A bogey is not going to kill you, right? And you have to stay patient. But if you get on a bad run and make two or three bogeys on a nine-hole stretch, that's going to come back to bite you if you don't come back with some birdies for sure,” said Wagner, 51.

Wagner was victorious last year at Coyote Creek Golf Club, his home course, where he finished 3 under – he had a 3-under 69 and a final-round 72 – to edge Andy Rang and Tom Wood by two strokes each.

“I wasn't playing particularly great going into the tournament,” Wagner said. “Things just started clicking during the first round and continued into the second round. I putted great, made a lot of good putts, and that was ultimately the difference in where I finished, for sure.”

Since then, Wagner has changed careers – he's now in sales for Schlemmer Associates – and that has meant more business travel, less time for golf and concerns about how he'll play in this year's Senior City, which is organized by the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne.

He also doesn't have a ton of experience at Orchard Ridge Country Club, the most frequent host site of this particular tournament, but he knows enough to know where the trouble lies.

“The course is a lot tougher than people give it credit for,” Wagner said. “The greens are the equalizer out there, for sure.”

What specifically is it about the greens, considered among the most difficult in northeast Indiana?

“I would say it's the speed, for sure, but when you're above the hole and putting downhill, it's pretty difficult to get the ball to stop unless you make the putt,” Wagner said. “I'm going off of memory – I haven't played it in a couple years – but the course is always in great shape and I've never heard any complaints about it. I'm looking forward to it; it's a great test.”

The field is chock full of players capable of winning, namely Rang, the runner-up to Dave Dumas at Coyote Creek in 2018; Steve Vernasco, the 2016 champion at Coyote Creek, who recently qualified for and competed in the U.S. Senior Amateur, a United States Golf Association event; Brian Gottwald, the runner-up to Dumas at Orchard Ridge in 2019 (when Dumas was even and Gottwald 5 over); Wood, the 2013 champion at Orchard Ridge (at 2 under) and 2011 winner at Brookwood Golf Club; Win Fisher; and Karl Behrens.

Wagner had almost no experience atop a leader board before he put together his win last year. Now that he's acquainted with setting the pace, he'd love to repeat as champion, but it won't be easy for a guy who's been multitasking work, golf and his personal life, trying to rediscover his winning form on the links.

“I'm not going to make excuses. I haven't made the time to go out and practice as much as I did the last few years,” Wagner said. “I've been focusing on my career. Having said that, over the last month or so, I've been playing a lot more. But my expectations are lower than they were going into last year's tournament.”

If you go

What: Senior City Championship

When: Today-Monday

Where: Orchard Ridge Country Club

Par: 71

Yardage: 6,500

Defending champion: Tim Wagner

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