BATH TOWNSHIP — It draws them back. It draws them out of semi-retirement.
The Lima City Men’s Golf Championship attracts many of the same players year after year in a way few events around here do.
This year, familiar faces fill up the scoreboard again. But two golfers who were dominant players locally a decade ago but have not been regulars in this tournament lately announced their presence with Championship Flight wins on Wednesday.
Chad Gray, the city champion in 2002 and 2000, defeated Josh Klaus 4-and-3 in the former champ’s first appearance in the tournament since 2008.
And Andy Connell, the No. 1 man on Lima Central Catholic’s 2002 and 2003 state championship teams, was a 4-and-3 winner over Chad Ehrnsberger.
While Gray is returning to familiar territory, Connell is playing in the city tournament for the first time.
He didn’t play after his senior year at LCC or while he was in college at Xavier. In fact, he had almost entirely stepped away from golf before entering the city tournament.
“It’s actually been five years or so since I’ve played competitive golf at all. I didn’t play seriously, mainly just nine holes a week in leagues before a month ago. I just started to miss it,” Connell said.
He recently moved back to the area and lives in Columbus Grove.
“I was excited. I didn’t know how my game would be since I haven’t played very much. I did pretty well today, I felt like I played pretty well,” he said.
Gray said a couple of job changes, wanting to spend more time with his wife and daughter and some home improvement projects had replaced golf on his priority list in recent years.
This year when he was debating whether to play, his wife Melanie gave him a push in the direction of playing.
“I was like, ‘Would I really want to do it?’ and my wife was like, ‘Look, go play, you need to start playing again,’ so that’s what I did,” Gray said. “I’ve been trying to hit balls in the evening, and I’ve been getting out and practicing as much as I can that way.
“I was hitting my irons well, seeing the ball well, going somewhere you want to go and my distance control was good. I’d say my putting is better but I’m hitting them (approach shots) closer, so that really helps,” he said.
In Wednesday’s other Championship Flight matches at Hawthorne Hills, Scott Geier beat Matt Metzger 6-and-5; Brandon French won 6-and-5 over Eric Schaaf; Thomas Leidy was a 4-and-3 winner over Kendall House; Randy Stocke defeated Bill Taflinger 5-and-4; Dave Kortokrax won 3-and-2 over Brett Eley; Brad Shaffer decisioned Bryan Kohli 7-and-6; Mike Garlock beat Brad Schroeder 2-and-1 and Clay Bryan was a 2-and-1 winner over Aaron Wright.
Dillon Klein, Brock Howe, Todd Burkholder, Michael Franks, Phil Trueblood and Joe Whittaker had byes into the second round of match play.
In the Senior Championship Flight, Tim Windau added a 77 to a first-day 74 for the low qualifying score, a 151. Todd Stump and Paul Masters are next at 153 and Rick Cheney and Pete Hubbell shot 156 for the first two days.
In Super Seniors match play, Dan Jones beat Rick Musser 3-and-2; Willie McGuire defeated Terry McKinley 6-and-5; Dan Garlock won 2-and-1 over Tom Swem; Joe Smith beat David Shilling 4-and-3 and Tom Mulcahy won 4-and-3 over John Wiesenhahn.
Also, Willie Cox won 1-up over Randy Mason; Larry Sidener was a 2-and-1 winner over Denny Watt; Richard Groves defeated Ron Spencer 2-and-1; John McDonald won 1-up (19 holes) over Lynn Mohler; John Gronas defeated John Casey 6-and-5 and John Allen won 5-and-4 over Ed Poling.
The Championship Flight, Senior Championship Flight and Super Seniors Flight will continue match play today at the Shawnee Country Club.
City Golf at Hawthorne Hills Golf Culb