David Belville has played somewhere between 12 and 18 rounds at Orchard Ridge Country Club, more than enough to know where the biggest challenges lie – on and around the greens.
He mastered them Sunday to the tune of a 2-under 69 to put him atop the leader board at the Senior City Championship.
“The greens are very challenging. Honestly, they are,” said Belville, who has a one-stroke lead over Brian Gottwald heading into today's final round. “They roll well, but they're hard to read. There are a lot of subtle breaks.”
Belville, 55, of course, needed more than just a good short game on the 6,235-yard course and, when asked what worked well for him overall, answered: “Honestly, a little bit of everything. I chipped it well, if I missed a green. But I hit a lot of greens. I drove it well. I didn't miss any putts that I should have made.”
Dropping strokes on the difficult-to-gauge putting surfaces at Orchard Ridge can leave even the city's top players scratching their heads. And in a two-day tournament with little room for error, mistakes can be even more frustrating.
Gottwald, the runner-up in 2019, when the tournament was last played at Orchard Ridge, knows that well.
“I missed it in the right spots today, and I was able to get up-and-down a few times where I probably shouldn't have been able to,” said Gottwald, 53, who finished at 5 over in 2019, five strokes back of Dave Dumas.
“The putter worked pretty well today. I missed a couple of little ones, but that's the game of golf – sometimes you make them and sometimes you don't – and I played pretty solid.”
Tim Dobis is in third place with a 71. Mark Rietdorf, the 2008 champion at Coyote Creek Golf Club, had a 72. Jay Leonard is in fifth place with a 73 in the 86-player event run by the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne.
“It's a good course, and you've got to drive the ball well. ... If you're not in the fairway, you can get in all kinds of trouble,” said Tom Wood, who shot a 74 that put him in a four-way tie for sixth place.
“The greens are running quick. I've seen them faster, but still you've got to be careful (because) there are just a lot of undulations. Sometimes you're not sure that you're downhill (when) you are downhill, so you've got to be careful. They're easy to overread because you see things that, really, you shouldn't be seeing.”
Wood, 62, won in 2011 at Brookwood Golf Club and in 2013 at Orchard Ridge.
Also posting 74s Sunday were John Ryan; Win Fisher, who won the Fort Wayne Golf Association's City Championship in 1990 at Sycamore Hills Golf Club; and Andy Rang, who has finished second twice in the Senior City.
“The greens are good, meaning they're smooth and they're fast,” said Fisher, 63. “If you hit a good putt, you can make it. And you can't ask for anything better than that. But you have to pay attention; they're a little fast and they can get away from you. There's no excuse today on the golf course, it's in great shape. I had good playing partners (Wood, Steve Vernasco and Kevin Music), a lot of fun and I'm healthy, so what else could you want?”
Defending champion Tim Wagner shot a 78. He was victorious last year at Coyote Creek at 3 under, two strokes better than Wood and Rang.
At Orchard Ridge Country Club
Par: 71; Yardage: 6,235
David Belville 69 -2
Brian Gottwald 70 -1
Tim Dobis 71 E
Mark Rietdorf 72 +1
Jay Leonard 73 +2
Tom Wood 74 +3
Win Fisher 74 +3
John Ryan 74 +3
Andy Rang 74 +3