Johnny Strawser was a formidable college golfer, a three-time all-conference selection with a career average of 75.99 strokes per round at Detroit Mercy from 2000-2003.
Now one of northeast Indiana’s top amateur golfers, the 41-year-old Strawser is able to look back and realize that decades of experience against the city’s best players — whatever their age – and having seen almost every situation imaginable on the course did a lot. wiser than he was for the Titans.
“The more experience you gain and the more you watch golf, especially competitive golf, you just learn from your failures,” Strawser said. “There were many times when I had chances to win and even if I didn’t win, you kind of learn from it. If I had that kind of knowledge at the age of 18, 19 years old, I would be a different player.
One of the most fascinating facets of the local golf scene – especially the Men’s City Championship (a Fort Wayne Golf Association event) and the Women’s City Tournament (a Fort Wayne women’s golf event) – is seeing the best players from colleges and high schools in the region compete against each other. with their elders.
There’s often a vibe of youngsters hanging in and out against methodical veterans, but that’s not always the case. For example, Heath Peters, who won the men’s city championship in 2000, decades away from his career at Indiana University, hits the ball like anyone else. And Jonny Filler, who won this year’s tournament in August with a three-day 7-under score at Autumn Ridge Golf Course as he prepared for his college season at Cleveland State, edged the pack thanks to the consistency of the finish and his composure.
More often, however, it is a contrast in styles between older players and college players, particularly when it comes to the mental approach to golf and the handling of bad shots, difficult lies and the sequence of several good rounds.
Sometimes the scene can be comical. As Purdue Fort Wayne golfer Nick Holder noted, older players at the city championship often have a beer in hand and a more laid-back attitude, while college players come like any other event. which they play during the year, walking with a serious air.
And veterans, statistically speaking, win local tournaments more frequently; of the last 20 men’s city champions, seven were college-aged, but the gap is narrowing.
“I think middle school kids overcomplicate it,” Holder said, “and (older golfers) play the game as it is, right in front of you. I think the difference between us kids and them , it’s that we hit a bad shot and we freak out; we think we should be perfect. With their experience, they know that everything won’t be perfect, and I think that’s the main difference between playing with these older guys and in a college tournament.
At the Women’s City Tournament attendance has become an issue and this year’s tournament has been reduced from 54 to 36 holes to make female players more likely to participate. Held in July, many college and high school aged golfers have consistently opted out of other tournaments or were simply not invited to participate in the city tournament by their coaches, which organizers of the FWWGA would like to change. They feel it is such a valuable competitive experience that promising tournament players who are able to play should play.
This year’s tournament was won by Makenna Hostetler, who plays for Indiana Wesleyan, with a score of 5 over two days at Chestnut Hills Golf Club. She was the third straight college player to win the event.
“There’s a way older players look at a course, and it can be different,” said Emma Schroeder, who won the 2021 City Women’s Tournament when she was part of the PFW squad. “Me in high school, I was swinging and punching, hoping it would end well. Now I have a plan and you just want to execute it.
Michael Jenkins, who finished tied for fifth in this year’s City Championship at 2 under (three strokes better than Strawser), enjoyed playing college players such as Filler a little more than a decade after his college golf career at the IPFW.
“I feel like I’m a better player now than I was at IPFW. But it’s fun to compete with these guys because they play at a high level,” a- he said, adding that it was equally motivating for him to see players from the higher ranks, like Steve Vernasco, chasing big events using the wisdom that younger players lack.
“You just try to take each shot one at a time – and I know it’s cliché to say this – but when you get ahead of the game usually things start to go downhill and you have to stay in the moment. .”