The Journal Gazette
Monday, September 14, 2020 1:00 am

Tourney novice leading Senior City

Club member says course familiarity helped him to front

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The players at the Senior City Championship have experience. That's a given – they've been in myriad situations throughout their golf careers – and one of the reasons it's so difficult to win even if it's only a 36-hole tournament.

But not everyone in the field has familiarity playing from atop the leader board, feeling the pressure of every shot, when a 6-foot putt looks like it's from 12, and knowing that everyone at the course is wondering how they're scoring.

Tim Wagner, who is in his first Senior City and will tee off today in the lead at Coyote Creek Golf Club, is one such player who hasn't been through this particular grinder.

“This is what I hoped for and I've got one more round to play,” Wagner, 50, said after posting a 3-under 69 on Sunday. “There are a lot of great players. ... This will be a new experience.”

Wagner had five birdies and two bogeys and took the lead with a breathtaking hybrid second shot from the rough, 218 yards out on the par-5 18th, though he narrowly missed his 27-foot eagle putt.

“I'm very pleased. I got a lot out of this round today,” Wagner said.

He has been a member at Coyote Creek for 17 years, something he said “helped a ton,” and his course knowledge may outweigh any lack of leader board experience.

“You've got to hit fairways out here,” Wagner said. “The rough is really thick, especially just off the fairway or just off the greens. If you're going to miss the fairways or miss the greens, miss it by a lot or don't miss it at all.”

Chasing Wagner are several players with championship experience, including: Tom Wood, who is at 2 under; and Steve Vernasco and Andy Rang, who are at 1 under.

Wood, 61, won this tournament, which is run by the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne, in 2013 at Orchard Ridge Country Club and in 2011 at Brookwood Golf Club. Vernasco, 62, won in 2016 at Coyote Creek, and he has won the Fort Wayne Golf Association's City Championship three times, including 2002 at Coyote Creek.

Rang was atop the Senior City leader board after the first round in 2018 at Coyote Creek and finished second by six strokes to Dave Dumas, who also won in 2019 but wasn't able to compete this year.

“I'm just going to go have fun tomorrow,” Wood said. “It's golf, you know? I'm playing pretty good; I only missed one, maybe two, fairways and I got away with couple squirrelly iron shots, but the rest of them were good. It's just about hitting the fairways, hitting the greens, and making some putts. This isn't an easy golf course, I don't care what yardage you play. You've still got to hit the shots.”

Coyote Creek was playing about 6,186 yards.

“It comes and goes, but today was a good day hitting the ball,” said Vernasco, who had two birdies and one bogey. “It was a good putting day, but I didn't make any (long) putts. ... Don't hit your putts too soft, that's the key here. If you hit your putts firm, they'll do what you see. But they're rolling great and the course is in beautiful shape.”

Win Fisher is in fifth place at even par.

Leader board

Senior City Championship

Where: Coyote Creek Golf Club

Par: 72; Yardage: 6,186

First round

Tim Wagner 69 -3

Tom Wood 70 -2

Steve Vernasco 71 -1

Andy Rang 71 -1

Win Fisher 72 E

Mike Davis 73 +1

Chris Bartkus 73 +1

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