BLUFFTON — Rain has played havoc on the area golf courses and at times they have had to shut down their operations throughout the past two months due to flooding.
But thanks to some dry days and the efforts of the Young-Miller family, who own and operate Bluffton and Hidden Creek Golf courses, the facilities were ready for the start of The Lima City Men’s Golf Championships on Wednesday. Open flight players teed off at Colonial Golfers Club for a qualifying round and the senior flights began with a qualifying round at Bluffton.
A total of 135 golfers signed up for this year’s competition with two withdrawing before play began. This is down from last year where 143 participated but still up from two years ago where 115 competed.
“Luke Young is our superintendent and my husband, Steve Miller, are both playing in championship rounds, and they take a lot of time and energy to stay up on everything,” said Wendy Miller, manager at the two venues. “This year we have been keeping our head above water, literally.”
Wendy Miller added that it has been a rough year for golf courses in the region and across the state but she said it has been a family effort to maintain the course this year.
“We feel blessed that we are family owned and operated so if we need to go out and mow, we say ‘let’s go everybody,’” Wendy Miller said. “Our golf course is our No. 1 priority. It is our livelihood so we look forward to having great weather so that we can put out a great product, and we were able to put out a great product in the midst of a lot of chaos.”
Wendy Miller said in the past several years they have been working on drainage projects at Hidden Creek and Bluffton to help alleviate some of the flooding.
One of the benefits of having a lot of rain is that the greens have remained relatively untouched due to the lack of play on the courses.
“The Bluffton greens have been phenomenal,” Wendy Miller said. “They have been fast and 11 and 12 on the stint meter so they have been rolling true and fast and because we have had a lack of play due to the rain they are in great shape. I am really proud of our crew working long hours.”
Jim Sherrick, who was the leader in the Senior Open Flight division with a 77, agreed the golf course was in great condition.
“It is in amazing shape,” Sherrick said. “It is kind of amazing how dry it has gotten and greens were really firm so you had to be careful to keep it below the hole on your approach shots and putts. I played pretty well on the front. I made a couple of 6’s on the back but overall I can’t complain.
Sherrick shot a 37 on the front and a 40 on the back. Jeff Harris was two strokes behind after coming in with a 79. The two received a bye into the second round as match play begins Thursday at Springbrook Golf Club.
“My goal is to keep it in the 70s and that is what I did, and I feel pretty good about it,” Sherrick said. “Match play is a different animal. You have to keep it in front of you. Pars are golden in match play and really at any level actually. If you can make par you can keep pressure on your opponent and avoid the big number.”
In the senior championship bracket, Brian Norton, the defending champion, fired a 74 in the qualifying round to get a bye Thursday.
“I’ll take the bye,” Norton said. “As tough as this golf course was today I feel good about my score.”
Norton shot a 39 on the front and then followed it up with a 34 on the second nine. Behind Norton in second place was Dean Meyer with a 75 and he will also get a bye Thursday.
“It has been soaking wet all spring but today we came out and it is firm and it is fast and it was very challenging,” Norton said. “It made you stop and think before every shot. It was good golf today.”
Norton added that he made yardage adjustment on his approaches to the green as he advanced through the course.
“You could not count on the ball flying to the hole,” Norton said. “You had to change your game but that is golf. You play the conditions and course and that is great.”
Norton anticipates a tough weekend with a number of golfers vying for the title.
In the senior flight, Joe Bailey came with a low score of 73 followed by Jim Troyer. Both receive a bye as match play begins.
At Colonial, Drew Hobensack was the Open Flight medalist with a 78.