It took a certain amount of fearlessness for Brian Gottwald and Tom Wood to solve Orchard Ridge Country Club and keep pace with Dave Dumas, the defending champion, at the Senior City Championship.
All three of them posted even-par 71s and are tied for the lead heading into today's final round of the 36-hole Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne event.
Gottwald, 51, hadn't played the course in 15 years, so it may have been a big ask to think he'd be able to shoot for the pins and judge the notoriously difficult greens as well as he did Sunday.
“It was a lot of, 'Hey, how far can I hit this?' And it's a good thing we have GPS, because it was able to help me out quite a bit,” Gottwald said. “We misread probably about four or five of (the greens) – we over-read them – and it could have been a lot better. But it always can be worse, so I'll take it.”
Wood, meanwhile, used strong ball-striking despite it being only his third round with new, fitted irons.
“I was hitting it pretty good,” said the 60-year-old Wood, who won the tournament in 2011 at Brookwood Golf Club and in 2013 at Orchard Ridge, when he finished 2 under.
He was also the runner-up in 2015 at Orchard Ridge, after Sam Till Jr. holed out a 105-yard shot on the first playoff hole. Wood and Till had been 3 over.
Wood tries to take a stress-free approach to golf, the effect of a car crash 20 years ago that almost took his life. Hit by a drunken driver, Wood's many injuries included his hip, wrist and spleen; he was in intensive care a week, the hospital a month, and a wheelchair another month-and-a-half; and he was put back together with five plates and 26 screws.
“Every day is a gift. Don't forget that,” Wood said.
And playing with unfamiliar clubs? Certainly nothing to fret about.
“You've got to remember, man, 20 years ago I was given last rites. So nothing scares me all that much,” Wood said.
“It really kind of, when I was hitting the shorter irons, it didn't scare me (Sunday) but I was certainly more aware that (they were unfamiliar clubs). But I hit 'em good. I tell you what, I hit a bad tee shot on No. 9 and had a bogey, but other than that I was pretty much at the pin most of the day. It felt good.”
Wood started his round with birdies on Nos. 1 and 2, and he had three total – all in his 1-under front-nine 35. Gottwald had one birdie en route to his front-nine 37, but he finished strong with birdies on Nos. 14 and 17 for a back-nine 1-under 34.
“I just played smart today,” Gottwald said. “I took what the course gave me and didn't try to force anything.”
Dumas, 52, won last year at Coyote Creek Golf Club and came into this tournament feeling as if his game was in poor form. It didn't look that way Sunday, when he had four birdies and played even par on the back nine.
He, too, has had success in the Senior City at Orchard Ridge. In 2017, his 72 put him into a tie for the lead after one round and he finished third at 6 over behind Till (4 over) and Matt Schmidt (5 over).
Dumas, Gottwald and Wood have a two-stroke advantage over Bill Argus, the 2007 champion at Brookwood. Argus made it to a playoff with Till and Chip Novak in 2009 at Orchard Ridge – all three were even par – and Till won on the first playoff hole.
John Wray, who shot a 74 on Sunday, is in fifth place and can't be counted out; he won at Orchard Ridge in 2002 and 2012, along with a 2010 title at Autumn Ridge Golf Club.
Senior City Championship
Orchard Ridge Country Club
Par: 71; Yardage: 6,500
Tom Wood 71 (E)
Brian Gottwald 71 (E)
Dave Dumas 71 (E)
Bill Argus 73 (+2)
John Wray 74 (+3)
Mark Rietdorf 75 (+4)
Mike Meehan 76 (+5)
Mark Dabagia 76 (+5)
Win Fisher 76 (+5)
Kevin Music 76 (+5)