La PORTE — Fresh off a big win in last week’s Michigan City City Tournament, Chris Schultz came into his first La Porte City Tournament on a roll.
His hot hand was nearly doused by Tom Wells’ fast start, but the La Porte resident rallied from four down after eight holes to extract a 1-up victory in Saturday’s Championship Flight semifinals at Beechwood.
“I wasn’t committing to shots the first few holes and he wasn’t making any mistakes either,” Schultz said. “I was a little all over the place, double missing, pulling the ball, going right. I kind of caught fire. I’m happy with how I finished.”
Wells went out in 34 to forge a seemingly commanding lead, but it quickly disappeared when Schultz strung birdies on holes nine through 12. Another bird put him in front on 14 before Wells pulled back even two holes later. A birdie on 17 gave Schultz the lead and he made a tough up and down on 18 to end the match in regulation.
“I shoot 71 and lose,” Wells said with a shrug. “What are you going to do?”
Schultz was in between clubs and went long on 18 but chipped inside to 10 feet to set up the clinching putt.
“It was birdie to win and bogey to lose,” Schultz said. “Tom played really well. I’m struggling off the tee a little bit, but my iron game is really strong right now.”
Wade Warner will provide Schultz’s opposition by virtue of his 1-up decision over defending champion Brandon Thomas in a neck-and-neck battle.
“Brandon’s a great player. We always have an enjoyable match. I knew it would come down to the end,” Warner said. “I just tried to stay focused, finish some putts. I missed some putts I normally would make and they finally started to drop, then things started going my way.”
Warner nailed a putt from about 20 feet on 16 to break a deadlock. Thomas just missed a birdie on 17, then couldn’t drop a five-footer on 18 to force a playoff.
“He almost made a hole-in-one,” Warner said. “He’d been making putts all day. I was already getting my driver out. I know how he plays. I figured we were going to a playoff. I think he just read it wrong.”
Warner was unable to play in the M.C. tourney last week due to a commitment, but watched Schultz in Sunday’s round.
“We’re going to have a great match,” Warner said. “Chris might be one of the best players in the state. I’m looking forward to it.”
Schultz is playing his debut in the La Porte City tourney, which usually conflicts with his work. He’ll head from Beechwood today to participate in USGA qualifier in Illinois on Monday.
“It’s the first time (Wade and I) have played in the same group,” Schultz said. “It’ll be fun. I don’t want to make mistakes. I want birdies to beat me, not my bogeys.”
In the Senior Championship Flight, defending champion Tony Fallucca fired an even-par 72 in dispatching Bill Wessel 5-and-3. He led by three at the turn and cruised to the victory.
“I was at an outing a couple weeks ago and a guy told me I had open shoulders and feet,” said Fallucca, a retiree from ArcelorMittal Steel. “I didn’t even know. He straightened my putting out. He straightened everything out. I’m playing really well.”
Mike O’Connor, a Beechwood weekday league regular, will provide his opposition thanks to his 4-and-3 triumph over Skeeter Heath.
“I just turned 60, so I figured I better act my age,” said O’Connor, who has played regularly in the Men’s Division previously. “I just hung in there, stayed with him, and on the back, some of the harder holes, I was able to get the better of him. I’m just happy to be here. This is a great place to play. I think it’s the best golf course in Northwest Indiana. I’m looking forward to playing three days straight. Tony’s tough, very steady. I’ve got to bring it.”
In today’s other finals, David Daisy and Tom Spartz will square off in the A Flight with Matt Garrett and Travis Keehn matching up in B Flight. The C Flight features Joe Maesch and Kevin Perschke, while the Senior A Flight pits Ken Berner and Dave Utterback.