FORT WAYNE – Hard to believe that at 32, Aaron Walters would look like one of the old men. But that was the case at Chestnut Hills Golf Club, where he held off college and high school golfers, the 2013 champion and a slew of others to win the Men's City Golf Tournament.
Age doesn't matter anyway, not when you're hitting the golf ball like Walters was Sunday.
“When it comes down to it, it's just golf,” said Walters, who had a final-round, even-par 72 to finish the three-day event at 2 under.
“No matter how old or young you are, if you play well and play the right way, you have the ability to compete. I just thought it was important for me to play my game. Luckily, it worked out. I didn't expect it to happen this way, but it did. And I'm just very thankful”
Walters edged 20-year-old Michigan State golfer Mitch Rutledge and 42-year-old Sean Ferguson by one stroke, while 2013 winner Patrick Kelley, Bishop Dwenger's Callahan Elzey and Johnny Strawser were two back at even par.
Ferguson shot a 71 on Sunday, Rutledge had a 76, Strawser had a day-best 69 and Elzey had a 77.
“Aaron kept it together on the front nine and then played really solid on the back nine, didn't make any mistakes. He was the man to beat today,” said Kelley, who had a final-round 74.
Rutledge and Elzey came into the day tied for the lead at 5 under, while Walters was in third place at 3 under, and it seemed to still be a race between the younger players on the second nine.
Until, that is, Rutledge double-bogeyed the par-3 14th to go to 1 under, shortly before Elzey double-bogeyed the par-4 15th to go to 1-under.
Walters, meanwhile, was steadily taking care of things one group ahead; his birdie on the 14th put him at 2 under. Knowing Ferguson was in the clubhouse at 1 under, he got up-and-down for par on the par-5 18th in front of a gallery of a couple hundred to put the pressure on the final group.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Walters said of the winning putt. “It was a dead-straight putt, 3 to 4 feet. But you've basically got everything on the line at that point. I did everything I could to keep my wrist straight and just put a good stroke on it. Luckily, it went in.”
Elzey's chip from just off the green narrowly missed, as did Rutledge's birdie putt, and a new champion was crowned in the Fort Wayne Golf Association tournament, which has taken place since 1926 and began with 156 players.
“Really, my attitude was (great). I hit some shots that weren't the greatest and had some poor putts, but having a positive attitude the whole day helped keep me in the flow and allowed me to hang in there,” said Walters, who is in sales and was competing in the tournament for the fourth time.
“That's what it was all about today – just hanging in there.”
A former college golfer at Indiana University, Walters won Bloomington's city tournament when he was student.
But that, he said, was nothing compared to this victory.
“The magnitude of this tournament is much bigger and it's very special to have the opportunity to win this tournament. I'm just grateful.”