MENOMINEE – A wild ride on the back nine left Jim Wagner facing 35 feet of green to stay alive in the Upper Peninsula Men’s Golf Association Senior Championship.
The first-round leader sank the long chip shot on the 18th green to force a playoff against Highland’s Mark Ray.
Wagner, representing the Little River Country Club, let loose with his biggest display of emotion during the two-day tournament, swinging his club with relief and joy and high-fiving his son Mike.
“I thought I probably had to make it to get in a playoff,” Wagner said of title-saving chip. “I told my son that I made a chip on 18 (Monday) so maybe I’ll make it today.”
Ray used his deft putting touch to drain a pressure-packed 8-foot putt after lofting a pitch onto the elevated green on the Par 3 10th to push the match to the par 5 17th hole.
After Wagner’s birdie try slipped past, the playoff seemed destined to go to the 18th hole.
But Wagner claimed the tournament trophy in his first try when Ray’s two-footer went wide.
Wagner and Ray finished regulation play with 149 totals.
“It’s great,” said Wagner. “This is one time that being a rookie is an advantage. I always wanted to win the U.P.’s (men’s title). I’ve been close a few times.”
Wagner started the day with a two-stroke lead and was locked and loaded to run away with the title after his birdie on No. 9 gave him a 35 on the front and three-stroke lead over Ray.
A double bogey on the 12th cut the lead to two strokes and Ray’s birdie on No. 13 pulled him even.
Stripling had the second-lowest round with his 75, while Ray finished with a 73. Eight championship flight golfers scored 80 or more in the second day of the tournament.
Ray, who was celebrating his 56th birthday, carried a two-stroke lead into the 18th. A short par putt that would have slammed the door on Wagner slid past the hole, leaving the window open for Wagner’s dramatic tourney-saving chip.
One of the first things Wagner did after the playoff win was offer to buy Ray a birthday drink.
“It could have been a great birthday,” said Ray. “I got beat by a great golfer. He had the opportunity to close it out, but he let us back in the tournament. I made some mistakes down the stretch.
Jim Wagner Little River
73-76 – 149
Mark Ray Highland
76-73 – 149
Wes Stripling Riverside
75-75 – 150
Mike Mansfield Riverside
76-75 – 151
Scott Saari Wawonowin
76-75 – 151
Tom Hammar Wawonowin 77-75 -152
Dale Bayer Wawonowin
76-78 – 154
Mike Brayak Highland
78-79 – 157
Larry Bratonia Irish Oaks 76-82 – 158
Steve Bratonia Gladstone 75-83 -158
Matt Smith Jr. Irish Oaks
79-80 – 159
Paul Soyatt Wild Bluff
76-83 – 159
Paul Bujold Pine Grove
77-84 – 161
Jeff McCall Terrace Bluff
79-82 – 161
Dave Gadowski Wawonowin 78-86 – 164
David Jahn Wild Bluff
75-90 – 165
Tom Zeni Escanaba C.C. 157
Keith Nelson Hunters Glen 167
Barry O’ Connor Munising 171
Rick Soder Newberry 179
Marvin Meyers Marquette 184
Charlie Miller Little River 192