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The Journal Gazette

  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Mitch Meyers chips in a birdie on the 17th hole Sunday during the first round of the Senior City Golf Championship at Orchard Ridge Country Club. 

Monday, September 18, 2017 1:00 am

1st-time participant grabs share of lead

Hard greens make putting difficult for 50-and-older players

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Senior City Championship

First round

at Orchard Ridge

Par 71

David Dumas 72

Matt Schmidt 72

Steve Vernasco 75

Mike Riecke 75

Mark Rietdorf 76

Sam Till Jr. 76

Greg Meyers 76

Robert Itt 76

No sooner had Steve Vernasco turned in his scorecard than he was reaching into his bag for his putter, eager to get in some extra work on the practice green.

Orchard Ridge has notoriously difficult greens and, at the Senior City Championship, they monopolized the conversations Sunday as player after player came in from the hot conditions to give play-by-play of putts gone awry.

“My putter just wasn't very good today,” said Vernasco, the defending champion of the two-day tournament.

But here's the amazing thing: Vernasco is still in a tie for third place with an opening-round 4-over 75 on a day that those who limited the damage did the best.

David Dumas and Matt Schmidt fired 72s on the 6,300-yard course.

“The whole golf course is firm. A fast golf course is going to be hard for pros and we're just amateurs – older amateurs,” Vernasco said. “It's a fun golf course, but you just can't let up and you've got to take it in stride.”

For Dumas, 50, it was his first-ever round in the tournament, organized by the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne, and he had a 1-under 34 on the back nine, birdieing the par-4 14th.

“You've got to stay short of the pins. It's hard and firm and I was just trying to keep it below the hole,” Dumas said. “I've played (this course) probably 10 times in the last five years. It's a test.”

More impressive was Dumas came in battling a shoulder injury, but it wasn't evident to his competitors.

“My wedge was working for me and I was getting up-and-down,” he said. “When you miss the green, you've got to hit some nice wedge shots. I holed a few putts for par but missed quite a few for birdie. But I got it around.”

Schmidt is no stranger to this place on the leader board; he and Sam Till Jr. finished one stroke back of Vernasco last year at Coyote Creek. Schmidt, who was even on the back side, totaled three birdies in his round.

Till, a five-time champion, is among a group of four tied for fifth place at 76, a score also shot by 2008 champion Mark Rietdorf, Robert Itt and Greg Meyers. But they are a stroke back of Vernasco and Mike Riecke, who hadn't played Orchard Ridge in two years but somehow avoided major trouble on the greens.

“Actually, I played pretty well,” Riecke said. “I hit a couple bad shots. But it was really tough out there for everybody. The greens were very, very firm and the pins were in tough places. It seemed like every time you had anything downwind, the pin was in the front. So if you carried it to the pin, you're ending up with a 30- or 40-footer and that was tough.”