Michael Jenkins came off the 18th hole at Coyote Creek Golf Club, turned in a 1-under 71 that put him atop the leader board for a time, and quipped: “That was the longest round of my life.”
He was being literal, not figurative.
The first round of the Men's City Championship endured a 41/2-hour delay Saturday because of torrential rain. Mother Nature didn't prevent some of the city's top players from faring well at one of its toughest courses – Travis Hemsoth ultimately took the lead with a 68 – but only 81 of the 156 players completed their rounds before darkness became too great. Some players didn't hit their first tee shots until 7 p.m.
“From start to finish, it was tough conditions, obviously,” said Jenkins, a 29-year-old financial advisor for Wells Fargo, who was on the 11th hole when play was suspended, came in for a leisurely lunch, then resumed by making a substantial par putt that propelled him to a 1-under back nine.
“It had rained the entire first 11 holes. I hit some good shots, hit it pretty well, and kudos to the (grounds) crew because when we went back out it was surprisingly playable. Good for them.”
Hemsoth, 36, was on No. 9 when play restarted. He bogeyed that hole – his only bogey of the day – but recovered for a 3-under back nine. Hemsoth is no stranger to being high on the leader board, having placed fourth at the City Championship in 2003, 2013 and 2016.
“I just need to do the same as today,” said Hemsoth, who works for Gator Cases in Columbia City. “It's going to be weird playing with the same guys again – I don't think they're re-pairing – but that's fine. Just tees and greens, let's make some putts, and don't screw up.”
Heath Peters is in second place with a 69, highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 15th hole. Peters, 37, who works for Stryker Corporation, played the back nine first and was making the turn when play was halted. He proceeded to birdie Nos. 1 and 2, en route to a 1-under second nine. Not bad considering he hadn't played the course since before its 2007 rebranding. Formerly The Elks Country Club, Coyote Creek is known as the place where Arnold Palmer earned his first professional paycheck at the 1955 Fort Wayne Open.
“It was a blast from the past to come out here and play this place. I love it out here. It's a really good course,” Peters said.
A former standout at Garrett and Indiana University, this is Peters' first experience in the City Championship, the marquee event of the Fort Wayne Golf Association season, won by his former IU teammate, Aaron Walters, in 2014.
“I was playing in a Thursday night league and some guys who I was playing with mentioned his name,” Peters said. “They mentioned he had won this. I signed up the next day. He's got his name on the trophy and I wanted to try and do the same thing, so we'll see what happens.”
Only four former victors are in this year's event – three-time winner Steve Vernasco and 1992-champion Mike Meehan, who shot 76s on Saturday; 1990-winner Win Fisher, who had an 83; and 1957-champion Ken Rodewald, who posted a 116 – and the tournament runs through Monday.
Chris Schweitzer, Kyle Miller, Logan Ryan and Matt Zedrick are tied for third with 70s.
Jenkins, Carson Stohler, Joe Hayden, David Dumas, Josh Neal and Tyler Haire are tied for seventh with 71s.
The City Championship has taken place annually since 1926.
Where: Coyote Creek Golf Club
Par: 72; Yardage: 6,560
Travis Hemsoth 68 -4
Heath Peters 69 -3
Chris Schweitzer 70 -2
Kyle Miller 70 -2
Logan Ryan 70 -2
Matt Zedrick 70 -2