If you go
What: City Golf Tournament
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Chestnut Hills Golf Club, par 72
Defending champion: Patrick Kelley
FORT WAYNE — Patrick Kelley isn’t going to take his driver out of the bag Friday.
In fact, he’s not even going to bring it to the golf course.
He’s been burned too many times at Chestnut Hills Golf Club, site of this year’s Men’s City Tournament, which runs Friday through Sunday.
“I’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak there,” said Kelley, a 27-year-old senior financial analyst at Parkview Physicians Group, who is the reigning champion in the Fort Wayne Golf Association event.
Kelley was referring mostly to his high school career – he played for Blackhawk Christian – but the memories are still vivid.
“I wasn’t a smart golfer back then,” Kelley said. “When I heard last year after winning the City that they were having it this year at Chestnut Hills, I thought, ‘Aw, great, do I have to play?’
“But I’m a smarter golfer now and more willing to just hit it easily off the tee and be more patient.
“Hopefully, I can erase some of those bad memories this week.”
Chestnut Hills isn’t the longest course – it can be set up between 6,548 and 7,012 yards – and it’s not uncommon for players to forego woods for irons on tee shots.
“I would definitely say there are more people who have a chance to win at Chestnut Hills compared to Autumn Ridge,” said Kelley, who won his first city title last year at Autumn Ridge by shooting 1-over 217 and then defeating Joe Hayden in a sudden-death playoff.
“All the trouble at Chestnut Hills is off the tee. It’s open around the greens. It’s not going to play nearly as long. As long as they keep it in play, I know a lot of people who can do well there.”
Kelley will tee off at 9:30 a.m. Friday in the final pairing of the morning groups, along with Hayden and Jim Joseph, who won in 1997, 2001 and 2003, the last two times the tournament was at Chestnut Hills.
The tournament has taken place since 1926, and this year’s field of 156 players includes Sam Till Jr., who won in 1982, 1984, 1995 and 1998, and Steve Vernasco, who won in 1989, 1999 and 2002.
The top 60 players from last year, and defending champions, were exempt from having to qualify.
Other players to watch include Mitch Rutledge, Spencer Gillig, Marty Rifkin, Callahan Elzey and Travis Hemsoth.
The field will be cut to the low 120 players, including ties, after the second round.
And, as Kelley can attest to, winning the City Tournament is regarded as quite an accomplishment in this golf-rich community.
“It actually has come up quite a bit over the last year,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of kind words come from kind people in congratulating me. It was hard bringing the trophy back (to the FWGA). Hopefully, I can get it back and bring it home for the bookshelf.”
Notes: Patrick Kelley’s cousin Tom holds the FWGA record with nine championships between 1974 and 2000. … Joseph and five-time champion Scott Pieri will be inducted into the FWGA’s Hall of Fame on Saturday night.