David Belville, having just finished his round Monday at Orchard Ridge Country Club, looked up at the leader board, spotted the 7-under 64 that Karl Behrens had polished off an hour before, and exhaled a “Whew.”
His reaction Monday was both awe and relief.
Belville had just won the Senior City Championship, shooting a final-round 72 to put him at 1 under for the two-day event. But he was unaware Behrens, who came into the day in 15th place, had made such a dramatic run – a tournament-record round – to make it a nail-biter.
“I had no idea Karl had shot 64. I’m not surprised, but I had no idea,” said Belville, 55, who finished one stroke up on Behrens to win the Senior Golf Association of Fort Wayne’s premier event for the first time.
It’s sort of amazing that Belville didn’t know he had to par the par-4 18th hole to win, since the gallery encircling the tee box had been discussing the state of the leader board maybe too loudly. Belville proceeded to hit a 4-iron tee shot and it traveled farther than he expected – about 245 yards – landing in terrific position, though it may have toyed with danger, including water, more than he’d hoped it would.
“There’s that little gully area way short of the bunker up on the right and I was just trying to keep it short of that. I would have never hit that club had I known I could have gotten it that far. I was shocked. As it ended up, I was 90 yards away, in the middle of the fairway,” said Belville, who hit a 60-degree wedge to 22 feet and two-putted to win.
Brian Gottwald, who started the day one stroke back of Belville for the lead, shot a 76 to finish at 4 over and tie for third place with two-time champion Tom Wood, who had a 72.
“I’m not even sure I can explain what this means to me, to be honest with you. It’s pretty emotional and I’m trying to keep it together,” said Belville, general manager at the Golf Garage, which has an indoor simulator and does custom fittings. “It’s definitely the highlight of my playing career. ... I’ve had a good summer (competing), and I’m not ready for it to end.”
Behrens, 51, was one of the favorites coming into the tournament, which has been played annually since 1992, but his first-round 78 seemed to have taken him out of contention. That was an illusion.
“There was probably less stress today,” Behrens said. “(In the first round), you’re trying to play well and the expectations are high, so I probably put more pressure on myself than I needed to. Today, it was just, ‘Let it go and have fun.’ ”
Behrens had three bogeys Monday, trumped by his eight birdies and an eagle on the par-5 12th, where he hit a 5-iron from 205 yards out and put it within 6 feet for his putt.
The 12th hole was also crucial for Belville, who saved par from a sand trap.
“I thought I hit a good third shot there; I had 96 yards and hit my gap wedge. I don’t know if I got a gust of wind or what, but it blew it into that bunker,” Belville said. “So I was pin-high right with no green or nothing and I was able to knock it up to about 7 feet and I actually made it, so that was huge. That was very big.”
A birdie on the par-4 14th may have been even bigger.
“Yeah, that was probably my best shot, maybe of my life,” he said. “I was in the bunker and had 115 to the hole – a little bit of tree trouble, but not a lot – and I hit a wedge to about 3 feet. That was very apropos, very good for me.”
Mark Rietdorf, the 2008 champion, shot a 76 to finish in fifth place at 6 over. Tying for sixth at 7 over were Jeff Gery, who posted a 73; Win Fisher, who had a 75; and Tim Dobis with a 78.
Tim Wagner, the 2020 winner, tied for 12th at 10 over with a final-round 74.
At Orchard Ridge Country Club
Par: 71; yardage: 6,235
David Belville 69-72–141 -1
Karl Behrens 78-64–142 E
Tom Wood 74-72–146 +4
Brian Gottwald 70-76–146 +4
Mark Rietdorf 72-76–148 +6
Jeff Gery 76-73–149 +7
Win Fisher 74-75–149 +7
Tim Dobis 71-78–149 +7