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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Bradley Hardin hits his ball out of a sand trap on Sycamore Hills Golf Club's second hole during the opening round of the City Golf championship on Saturday. Hardin is tied for fourth after shooting a 73.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Kory Witmer hits the ball towards the second hole green on Saturday. Witmer finished the day with an 87.

Sunday, August 06, 2017 1:00 am

City Championship

Little separation after Day 1

3 share lead after shooting par at difficult Sycamore; 6 tied for 4th

CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette

Leader board

First round

At Sycamore Hills Golf Club

Par: 72

Johnny Strawser 72

Spencer Gillig 72

Justin Bell 72

Danny Kimes 73

Brayden Glaser 73

Patrick Allgeier 73

Bradley Hardin 73

Callahan Elzey 73

Xavier Walden 73

Because Sycamore Hills Golf Club offers such a challenge, Johnny Strawser halfway expected an even-par score to be good enough to hold the lead after Saturday's opening round of the City Championship.

Strawser, 36, wasn't sure he'd be one of the men to pull it off, but he was, along with Spencer Gillig, 21, and Justin Bell, 36.

After each shooting a 72, Strawser, Gillig and Bell top a strong field that includes six players – Patrick Allgeier, Danny Kimes, Brayden Glaser, Bradley Hardin, Callahan Elzey and Xavier Walden – tied for fourth place with a 1-over 73.

“I wanted to put myself somewhere in or near the lead,” Strawser said. “I didn't necessarily need to be in first place after the first round, just because it's a three-day event, but that was the goal.”

Strawser was able to hit all but three greens.

“My iron play was very, very good,” he said. “That was definitely the strength, so having 15 birdie putts on that course is what you want to do because it's so hard to make putts. The more chances you get, the easier it is and the less pressure it is.

“I putted acceptably. It wasn't great. It wasn't bad. I was happy with my game overall.”

A field of 156 players will be cut to the top 120 and ties after the second round.

The professional at Sycamore Hills, Mike Caris, attempted to massage the course, which is playing host to its first City Championship since 2008.

“We made the course as easy as possible,” Caris said. “Pins, length, especially. The greens are just pure.”

Just one stroke back of Strawser, Allgeier said there's only so much that could be done to mitigate the difficulty.

“You could play from the front tees and it'd still be a tough course,” Allgeier said. “Greens are a lot of hills, a lot of slopes, and it's a tough course to get around in general. So when they moved the tees up, they made it shorter, but at some points it makes it tougher, in a way, as you don't hit drivers as much. You're still playing the same holes, just maybe 40 yards shorter.”

A second-team all-Big East golfer at Butler, Allgeier won the Hall of Fame Championship in May. The 19-year-old Bishop Dwenger graduate felt Saturday was a “good starting round” for him.

“I'm in contention,” he said. “Able to make a couple birdies (second, third, eighth and 12th holes) and then bogeyed a couple more on the back nine: a few errors, a few poor swings off the tees and couldn't recover quick enough.”

Five players emerged with a 74: Joe Hayden, Nick Bienz, Jeffrey Mayer, Garrett Leeper and Luke Miller. Five-time City Championship winner Sam Till Jr. is tied for 21st after shooting 77.

“If you look at the list of champions and how long this event has been going on, it's special,” Strawser said. “Being able to compete at this level is something everybody in Allen County enjoys.”

Strawser's 3-over 133 placed him second at June's Little City, which, like this tournament, is run by the Fort Wayne Golf Association. His plan now is not only to start on top but finish on top.

“There might be some rain rolling in (today), so we'll just have to see how it is,” Strawser said. “I want to be aggressive when the shot calls for an aggressive shot but smart and safe when it calls for a safe shot. We want to put ourselves in position to win the event on Monday.”