Eleven players shot under par Saturday in the first round of the City Championship. There is a commonality between most of those in the red; they are current or former members of Pine Valley Country Club, which is hosting the Fort Wayne Golf Association's marquee event for the first time since 2012.
So what do those atop the leader board – led by Patrick Allgeier and his 7-under 64 – know that the rest of the 156-player field do not?
Namely, how to put themselves in position for success on the difficult greens.
“People have asked me, 'What's your secret out here?' Well, Pine Valley, we don't have the length of some golf courses. Sycamore Hills, they can move the tees pretty far back. The key here is you've got to position yourself on the greens,” said Allgeier, a Pine Valley member who leads Danny Kimes by two strokes, Logan Ryan by three strokes and Matt Zedrick by four.
“You've got to hit good golf shots into the greens to have the makeable putts. ... If you have those 8- to 10-footers downhill, you can't really go after them because if you hit it 4 or 5 feet by, it's going to keep going. You don't want that lengthy par putt.”
Callahan Elzey, who is tied for fifth at 2 under, echoed those sentiments.
“I'm trying to stay at the middle or front edge of the green at all times. I'm nearly taking a club short, just to make it to the front of the green on almost every hole,” said Elzey, 22, who plays his home matches for Purdue Fort Wayne at Pine Valley. “You're never going to be in trouble on the front of the green here at Pine Valley, but you will definitely be in trouble over, long on the green.”
Allgeier, 21, the 2018 runner-up, is coming off a standout season for Butler University in which he averaged 73.21 strokes. With Nick Bienz, who won the past two City Championships, unable to play because he's no longer an amateur, Allgeier delivered an eagle on the par-4 second hole, seven birdies and two bogeys.
“My game has improved a lot over this past summer. I've been working hard on my wedges,” said Allgeier, who tied his Pine Valley low. “Every par-4 other than No. 7, I had a wedge in my hand. I could really see that the work this summer has paid off because it gave me a lot of birdie opportunities. It makes the game a lot easier when you have a lot of wedges and don't have to hit 4- or 5-irons into par-4s.”
Kimes, 18, was the lone open qualifier to make a run at the lead. An incoming freshman at Indiana Tech, he had seven birdies and two bogeys.
Ryan, 19, had five birdies and a bogey, keyed by a 3-under 32 on the front nine.
“I've always had this issue, especially with all the golf tournaments I play in, it seems like I have a hard time getting going to start, but I can turn it on later in the round,” Ryan said. “I was fortunate enough to make a birdie early and I feel like that got me in a good mindset going into the rest of the round.”
Ryan, a Pine Valley member, averaged 73.33 for Emory University last season.
“It's a change in scenery from the golf courses that Pat and I are used to seeing for the college golf seasons,” Ryan said. “Only having to play at (6,622 yards), that's a lot of wedges for us. Pat could probably hit a couple greens with a driver. So it plays quite short and is pretty gettable. I was telling my family that maybe 12 under would be the score to beat this week, and Pat set an early pace, so we'll see.”
Zedrick, 31, another Pine Valley member, coaches the PFW women's golf team in its home matches here.
“The greens are always good and have a pretty good speed to them. You've got to be able to read the greens well out here to shoot a good score. Having seen it so many times, I knew that,” said Zedrick, who had five birdies and two bogeys. “For me, it was kind of staying in the moment and staying confident, not letting anything bother me. Things can rattle me a little at times, but I knew if I didn't let anything bother me then I'd be good.”
Tied with Elzey at 2 under are five-time champion Sam Till Jr., three-time champion Steve Vernasco, Garrett Leeper and Garrett Willis. Mitch Rutledge, the 2016 champion, is tied for ninth place at 1 under with Lance Hoch.
At Pine Valley Country Club
Par: 71; Yardage: 6,622
|Patrick Allgeier||64 (-7)|
|Danny Kimes||66 (-5)|
|Logan Ryan||67 (-4)|
|Matt Zedrick||68 (-3)|
|Callahan Elzey||69 (-2)|
|Garrett Leeper||69 (-2)|
|Garrett Willis||69 (-2)|
|Sam Till Jr.||69 (-2)|
|Steve Vernasco||69 (-2)|