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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Sam Till Jr. hits the ball onto the fourth green Monday during the final round of the Fort Wayne Senior Golf Championship. Till shot a 1-under 70 to win his sixth title.

  • Runner-up Matt Schmidt tees off on the fifth hole Monday. He finished a stroke behind winner Sam Till Jr.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 1:00 am

Experience pays off for champion Till

Rallies to wins Senior City 6th time

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Senior Golf Championship

Orchard Ridge Country Club

Final round

Par: 71 Yardage: 6,300

Sam Till Jr. 76-70–146

Matt Schmidt 72-75–147

David Dumas 72-76–148

Greg Meyers 76-73–149

Steve Vernasco 75-74–149

Mike Riecke 75-75–150

Just about anyone who knows anything about the local golf scene is aware that if Sam Till Jr. is within five strokes or so of the lead heading into the final round, he’s got a good chance of winning.

Such was the case Monday at Orchard Ridge Country Club, where Matt Schmidt and David Dumas teed off atop the leader board, three strokes ahead of everyone else. But just as much attention had to be paid to Till, who came into the day four strokes back and tied for fifth place, then wound up winning the two-day Senior Golf Championship for a sixth time.

Till shot a final-round 1-under 70 to finish at 4 over, one stroke ahead of Schmidt, who missed a 9-foot par putt on the 18th of Orchard Ridge’s notoriously difficult greens that would have forced a playoff in the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne event.

“I didn’t want to know how I was doing (on the leader board) all day. I was paying no attention,” said Till, 64, who has won the tournament three of the last four years, each victory coming at Orchard Ridge where morning rain allowed players to shoot for the pins more than they had in Round 1.

“I knew there were people snooping around (the lead), but I just didn’t care because I knew I had to take care of my business. And I had a lot of business to take care of. Those greens are hard to putt, and I knew I had to shoot under par to have any chance. It’s just really unfortunate for Matt that he finished that way (with bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18).”

Till has also won the Fort Wayne Golf Association’s City Championship five times – he won both the City and Senior City in 2015, something no one else has done in the same year – and the remarkable thing about his round Monday was that he answered his bogeys on Nos. 6 and 11 with birdies on 7 and 12. His birdie on the par-4 13th set him on his way to a 1-under 34 on the back nine.

“I birdied 12 and 13, and I knew at that point, even though I hadn’t played particularly well in the tournament, ‘Well, if we can keep this going then maybe we can shoot a number and something good can happen,’ ” Till said. “Fortunately, that’s what happened.”

Dumas finished third at 6 over with a final-round 76. Tying for fourth at 7 over were Greg Meyers, who shot a 73, and 2016 champion Steve Vernasco, who had a 74. Mike Riecke’s back-to-back 75s put him in sixth place at 8 over, one stroke ahead of 2007 champion Bill Argus.

All of the above knew that Till was in decent position to win, despite an opening 76. Even Till believes that he can always make up a handful of strokes in pressure situations.

“I do if I’ve got some game. I feel like I can get into the heat of battle,” Till said. “I feel like, a lot of times, I can hold up. I’m like everybody else and I don’t always hold up. But I feel like maybe, since I’ve been here so many times, I know how to get my nerves under control a little bit and that’s kind of what I did today down the stretch. I said, ‘Don’t get ahead of yourself and post a number,’ and that’s what I did.”

jcohn@jg.net