EVANSVILLE, Ind. – There’s always something interesting going on at the Evansville Men’s Golf Tournament.
A total of 173 golfers competed for 63 spots in Saturday’s qualifying round. It marks the highest number of tournament entrants since 2008 and the first time two courses have been required since 2016.
There were low marks. Lots of suspense with an 8-man elimination. Even a bit of drama for last place in the main event. Even trying to qualify is never lacking in interest.
Here’s a look at what happened at Fendrich and Helfrich Hills.
Fendrich got several low scores
It should come as no surprise which site gave up the most birdies with 17 players shooting by or better at Fendrich. For comparison, only one reached this mark last year during the qualifications.
Mitchell Johnson and Matthew Godsey paced the field at 6 and under 64. Johnson, a North High School graduate, tallied an impressive 10 birdies, including four in a row to end the day.
Godsey, a junior at Brescia, overcame a bogey on his first hole – the par-4 10th – to play flawless golf the rest of the day. The Memorial High School graduate finished with seven birdies.
“My main goal was to make the cut,” Godsey said. “As soon as I started riding I wanted to see how low I could go. It all came together in one day. I practiced a lot to get to the skill level I wanted to be at.”
Zach Williams (six birdies) shot 5 under. Eric Brinker (six birdies) and Luke Johnston (five birdies) finished at 4 under. Patrick Montgomery, Zachary Turi, Brody Sorrell and Ryan Horstketter have all been carded 3 under.
Noah Reese, Aaron Ashley, Drew Cahill, Ed Prevo and Daneil Hernly were the others in red numbers.
Here are all of Fendrich’s other qualifiers: Cory Kohlmeyer, Grant McAtee, Brayden Lambone (70); Scott Alpers, Nolan Ballard, Adam Akin, Clayton Zirkelbach, Kyle Smith, Kellen Higginson, William Redden, Brad House, Ben Meier (71); Jim Godsey, Mason Wassmer, Reid Lorey, Kurt Denning, Luke Richison (72); Ottie Droste, Kyle Seitz, Andy Eble, Sam Key, Cameron Scheller, Harold Schriefer, Aaron Huff, Matt Whitmore, Nathan Lester, Jim Thompson, Grant McCleary, Brent Weinzapfel (73); Mason Royalty, Lucas Zielinski, Tom Gayhart, Dustin Ross, Steve Wassmer and Don Neel (74).
The Schroeder family spend a memorable day in Helfrich
James Schroeder has been linked to this tournament and to Helfrich Hills for years.
He won the Dan Scism Scholarship in 1995. When he was 14, his family moved across from the Michael D. Helfrich House, located behind the 10th green.
Nothing in his mind has topped this year. His turn played only a small part in it. Schroeder earned the last qualifying spot in the Helfrich Group with a par in a one-hole playoff match against Stephen Smith.
His younger brother? Her 10-year-old son, Will. His eldest, Zach, had the lowest second round at Helfrich to qualify as well.
“I love this tournament and I never qualified,” said James Schroeder. “This year my boys played for the first time. (To qualify) is such a blessing, but it probably means more because of them.”
Zach Schroeder, a rising junior at Mater Dei, was one of the few to find success at Helfrich. He posted a 4 of 75 with three birdies to finish one shot behind Tyler Raben for the low round. His younger brother Matthew, an incoming freshman, shot an 87 to miss the cut by just four shots.
“Zach had a great score,” his dad said. “He was four putts away from winning qualifying. It’s really cool to have us all together today. Getting that last place was icing on the cake.”
Here are Helfrich’s 14 qualifiers: Tyler Raben (73); Zach Schroeder (75); Thomas Broshears (76); Kevin Higdon (77); Cody Mobley (78); Griffin Sohn, Rhett Schreiber, Chad Goble (79); Jake Hess (80); Aidan Ashley, Peter Doepker, Patrick Britz, Bryan Will (82); James Schröder (83).
Great shots and playoff drama
The last places in the tournament – the first round will be played on July 16 – required additional holes for Fendrich. This is where the 8-a-side playoff took place, plus a controversy.
Ten players finished at 4 of 74 with five places on the line. However, two were not present on the 10th tee when their names were called. These five points of advancement were then determined in a hole.
Tom Gayhart, Steve Wassmer, Dustin Ross, Lucas Zielinski and Don Neel each cut the first playoff hole. Four of them rushed in with Gayhart the only player to hit the green. The best shot belonged to Zielinski.
After hitting his second long shot, he hit a perfect pitch on a hill that nearly rolled into the cup. Zielinski, who said he raced for the playoffs and needed to buy a hat from the pro shop, couldn’t see the pin.
“I don’t want (this shot) to do it again,” Zielinski said. “That’s probably one of the best shots of my life. We thought 74 would be 100%. We had lunch and weren’t planning on coming back to play golf.”
Mason Royalty birdied the third playoff hole to win what was originally an alternate position. However, he earned a berth in the tournament when it was determined that a player who shot better than 74 did not meet the main residence eligibility requirements.
Tournament rules state that entries are open to male amateur players residing in Vanderburgh, Posey, Warrick or Gibson counties.
Follow Courier & Press sports reporter Kyle Sokeland on Twitter @kylesokeland.