The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 15, 2020 1:00 am

Knowing course pays off

Senior City rookie captures title by 2 shots

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

There was a delicate balance to what Tim Wagner did on the golf course Monday.

Any bad shots were equaled out by his knowledge of Coyote Creek Golf Club, where he’s been a member for 17 years. And his nerves, tested by being atop a leader board for the first time, were outmuscled by a strength of will that delivered a victory in the 36-hole Senior City Championship.

Wagner, 50, and competing in the tournament for the first time, posted a final-round even-par 72 to finish at 3 under and best Andy Rang and Tom Wood by two strokes.

Everything came into focus on the par-4, 364-yard 16th, rated the fourth hardest hole on the course. Wagner pulled his drive into the rough, just past a group of trees, and hit a gap wedge from 120 yards out to within 15 feet of the pin on the elevated green. He drained the birdie putt from below the hole, the ball drifting from right to left, to put him at 3 under for a two-stroke lead that stood.

“I was not, today, anywhere I haven’t been before on this course,” Wagner said. “I’ve hit every shot out here. So there’s no question that played into it for sure.”

Wagner came into the day one stroke up on Wood and two ahead of Rang and Steve Vernasco. Wood and Vernasco had previously won the tournament, organized by the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne, and Rang led the tournament heading into the final round in 2018 at Coyote Creek, so experience was in their favor. (Dave Dumas, who won in 2018 and 2019, wasn’t able to make it to this year’s tournament.)

The magnitude of Monday’s round caught up to Wagner early, as he missed fairways and fell behind Vernasco for a spell. Wagner recaptured the lead by birdieing the 375-yard, par-4 9th.

“I got away with some bad swings and got some breaks,” Wagner said. “I putted really well, very solid. I made the 3-, 4-, 5-, 6-footers and that really was the difference today.”

But it wasn’t easy, especially as a gallery started to gather on the back nine and the pressure began to mount.

“I would say when I got to the 14th tee – and I’d made some good pars and had a couple good birdie putts that didn’t go in – we had a little backup (of groups on 14) and that gave me just enough time to start thinking about the shot I had to make over the water,” said Wagner, who parred the 152-yard par-3 on the course where Arnold Palmer won his first professional paycheck in 1955.

Rang shot a final-round 72.

Wood, who won in 2013 at Orchard Ridge Country Club and in 2011 at Brookwood Golf Club, finished with a 73, thanks to hitting his second shot into a hazard on the par-5 18th, where he had to be aggressive after Wagner laid up for an eventual par.

Vernasco, who won in 2016 at Coyote Creek, carded a 73. A three-time winner of the Fort Wayne Golf Association’s City Championship, Vernasco finished fourth at even par along with Chris Bartkus, who had a final-round 71 and was tied for the lead with Wagner and Rang at 1 under through eight holes Monday.

“This is a dream come true,” said Wagner, a district manager for Pizza Hut. “I played in the FWGA for many, many years and never dreamed I would be able to do something like this. I’m very proud of myself.”


Leader board

Senior City Championship

Final round

Where: Coyote Creek Golf Club

Par: 72; Yardage: 6,186

Tim Wagner 69-72–141 -3

Andy Rang 71-72–143 -1

Tom Wood 70-73–143 -1

Steve Vernasco 71-73–144 E

Chris Bartkus 73-71–144 E

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