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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Steve Vernasco believes his game has improved over last year, when he won the Senior City Championship for the first time. He's looking to repeat at Orchard Ridge Country Club and says the greens there are among the most difficult in the area. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017 1:00 am

Champ has 'different game' now

Vernasco credits healthier back

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Senior City Championship

When: Today-Monday

Where: Orchard Ridge Country Club

Par: 71

Defending champion: Steve Vernasco

Round 1 tee times: 9-11:45 a.m.

Steve Vernasco has been in this position, defending a golf championship, many times before. He's a three-time city champion and, now, the reigning senior champion. And those are just some of the trophies he's taken home.

But part of Vernasco's routine when defending a title is to, basically, leave the past in the past and not treat himself as the guy to beat.

“I tend to forget about the year before because I have a totally different golf game by the next year,” said Vernasco, who will be among those teeing off today and Monday at Orchard Ridge Country Club in the Senior City Championship, which is run by the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne.

That might be a scary premise for Vernasco's opponents, since he believes his game is drastically better than last year when he shot 69 and 79 to finish at 5 under at Coyote Creek Golf Club and edge both Sam Till Jr. and Matt Schmidt by one stroke.

“I cured a few back (injury) issues and I guess I just found some things in my golf swing, chipping and putting, just all-around stuff, that I hadn't done in awhile,” Vernasco said of his on-course improvements.

“I don't know how it happened, but it just did, so I just go with the flow.”

This year's field includes a bevy of players with the ability to win, including Till, Schmidt, Mike Riecke, Bill Argus, John Wray, David Dumas and Mark Rietdorf, who finished fourth last year at 1 under.

While Vernasco was a perennial contender at the City Championship, which is run by the Fort Wayne Golf Association, his game went sideways for a spell. After winning the Senior City last year, he finished 21st this year at the City Championship at Sycamore Hills Golf Club, shooting a 1-over 73 and a 77 in the final two rounds, but seems to be back.

“I had kind of lost that, what I call, 'second guy in your head.' When you play golf, if you hit a bad shot when you're practicing, you might just throw another ball down or take another putt, and you hit a better shot or just make the putt because that second guy is the best, right? I used to be able to put that second guy on the first team and I hadn't been able to do that,” Vernasco said.

“I forgot about that guy. I had that first guy who just worries too much or gets in his own way, and doesn't let that second guy in.”

Vernasco said he's now keeping his nerves under control better, is more relaxed on the course, and the results have been evident in his tournament play.

He'll need to keep the adrenaline in check at an Orchard Ridge course that has notoriously difficult greens.

“I love that golf course. It may seem like a pretty tame golf course (but) it can come up and bite you pretty quick from being under par to being over par,” Vernasco said. “They have a lot of putts where you're better off having a 20-foot uphill put than a 6-foot downhill putt. ... The greens are probably some of the most difficult in Fort Wayne. Boy, they are tricky.”

jcohn@jg.net