FORT WAYNE – The name atop the leader board at the Men’s City Tournament wasn’t expected.
Not to the rest of the field, who hadn’t seen Travis Hemsoth play in the last six years or so in the Fort Wayne Golf Association’s marquee event.
And not even to Hemsoth himself, who gets to play only once a week – if he’s lucky.
I try to play once a week, said Hemsoth, 29, who works for Riverside Manufacturing. I have three kids. I have a deal with the wife where I can play once a week.
But Friday, when Autumn Ridge Golf Club chewed up the city’s best golfers and spat them out, Hemsoth was the one who emerged most unscathed with a 2-under 70.
He had the only score in red ink – signifying a score under par – and a two-stroke lead over Aaron Walters.
I played OK, Hemsoth said. I hit some squirrelly ones but kept them in the places where we could find them again. I had some good putts and good reads. It was OK.
But he was as surprised as anyone that his score was the best of the day; typically there are a handful of players who shoot in the 60s on Day 1 of the City Tournament.
Mark Dabagia, Jared McGinn and B.J. Hayden are tied for third place at 1 over.
It is nice. The last time I saw my name at the top of the leader board, it was for an NCAA bracket, Hemsoth said, adding he didn’t win that pool after choosing Indiana.
With two more rounds in the City Tournament – there will be a cut to the top 120 players after the second round – much can change before a champion is crowned.
We do know the champion won’t be Scott Pieri, who won five of the last seven City Tournaments before the United States Golf Association stripped him of his amateur status for lending his name to a commercial for retailer Golf Etc., even though Pieri received no financial compensation.
Last year’s runner up, Johnny Strawser, who is the Autumn Ridge club champion and came into the day as the favorite, posted a 77 to put him in a tie for 30th.
Four-time champion Sam Till Jr. carded a 75 and is tied for 14th place.
Steve Vernasco, a three-time champion, had a 78 and is tied for 42nd.
With Pieri out, everyone knew the field would be wide open, but Autumn Ridge didn’t allow many to chase a low score.
That’s tournament golf, FWGA president Ron Schmucker said.
The spring rain has thickened everything and the rough is difficult. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The course is in fantastic shape, but you can get in trouble. Again, that’s tournament golf.
Hemsoth has had success at the City Tournament, but it’s been awhile; he placed fourth in 2003 at Chestnut Hills, shooting a three-day total of 1-over 217 to finish five strokes back of champion Jim Joseph.
He looked awfully good for a player who doesn’t get to the course much these days.
I didn’t get rid of all my bad shots, he said, they’re just hiding.
Caddying for him was his father, Rick, the head professional at McMillen Park, Shoaff Park and Foster Park Golf Courses.
He gave me some good reads, Travis said. He talked me out of some bad decisions.
But at the end of the day, Travis Hemsoth wasn’t sure why everyone else was scratching their heads so much about Autumn Ridge.
It’s not a real hard golf course, he said, if you hit it off (the tee) fine. You can get in some trouble and get out of bounds.
You can get going in the wrong direction.