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At Chestnut Hills
Yards: 6,966 Par: 72
First round
Score Par
1. Nick Bienz 66 -6
2. Clay Spangler 67 -5
2. Joe Leja 67 -5
4. Patrick Kelley 68 -4
5. Mitch Rutledge 69 -3
5. Marty Rifkin 69 -3
5. Tyler Haire 69 -3
Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Defending champion Patrick Kelley putts to the pin on No. 12. Kelley is fourth at 4-under 68 after the first round.

Leaders attack at Men’s City

Hoagland 18-year-old shoots 6-under 66 to lead by 1 after first day

Marty Rifkin tees off on No. 16 in the first round of the Men’s City Tournament Friday at Chestnut Hills.
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Four-time winner Sam Till Jr. is five strokes over entering the second day of the Men’s City Tournament at Chestnut Hills.

Nick Bienz expected some low scores because of the ideal weather conditions.

The 18-year-old from Hoagland never thought his would be the lowest of all.

Bienz is atop the leader board at the Men’s City Tournament after shooting a 6-under 66 on Friday.

“It felt amazing,” he said. “I hit a lot of greens and got some putts to fall.”

Bienz played at Chestnut Hills Golf Club many times during his high school career at Heritage.

“The course has always been pretty receptive,” he said.

Bienz is leading 33-year-old Clay Spangler and 19-year-old Joe Leja by one shot entering the final two days of the Fort Wayne Golf Association’s featured event.

“It was just Day 1,” Spangler said. “You’ve got to keep going. The greens were in great shape, really quick, some good hole locations.”

Playing bogey-free golf, Bienz was consistent throughout the opening round, needing 33 strokes on the first nine holes and then another 33 for the back nine.

As he approached the 16th tee, Bienz didn’t know he was about to “get away with one.”

Attacking the par-3 hole, Bienz pulled his tee shot back to the left of the green.

“The pin was on the front,” he said. “I thought (the second shot) was going to be pretty straight. My caddie told me, ‘Play a little more break in it to be safe.’ ”

Bienz did that but hit the ball harder than he intended.

“Hit the back of the cup and fell in,” Bienz said. “That was a momentum-booster right there.”

It was one of his six birdies. The others were on the first, fifth, seventh, 11th and 12th greens.

“Putting was fantastic,” said Bienz, who estimated he had 26 in all. “I had three 6-footers for birdie that got away from me.

“I’ll take a 66 and save those for tomorrow.”

Defending champion Patrick Kelley lurks in fourth place after leaving the course with a 4-under 68.

“They didn’t have it set up too difficult,” Kelley said. “I feel pretty good. I just wanted a decent score.”

Mitch Rutledge is one of three men tied for fifth at 3 under.

“This is kind of a funky golf course off the tee,” Rutledge said. “I played smart off the tee and smart on my approaches. Don’t get too aggressive.”

Rutledge said this year’s field of 156 is characteristically strong.

Some fabled names, however, didn’t fare so well.

Three-time winner Steve Vernasco shot an opening-round 78, and four-time winner Sam Till Jr. was five strokes over.

While Kelley didn’t know much about Bienz, the teenager is in the driver’s seat.

“It means a lot,” Bienz said.

“You look at all the past champions and the trophy and you’re thinking, ‘I want to be that person.’ I want my name on that trophy.

“If it could happen, it would be spectacular. I have to play two more great rounds and see what happens.”