When the last of the scores had been posted and the trophies were being awarded, Elmwood Country Club professional Jerry Johnson announced the winner of the 25th annual Times-Republican City Golf Tournament as an eight-time champion.
You can't hardly blame him for losing track. Nobody's won it more times than Matt Steddom.
Steddom used one of his nine lives to convert a critical birdie on the 17th hole and then overcame the ghosts of City Open's past to pick up what actually was his ninth championship trophy on Sunday, escaping Bill Benda's comeback to become the first player to capture both the open and the senior titles in the same year.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Matt Steddom, left, accepts the championship trophy from American Legion Golf Course club professional John Schrempf after winning the 25th annual Times-Republican City Golf Tournament on Sunday at Elmwood Country Club. It marked Steddom’s ninth title overall, and first since 2007.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Bill Benda blasts out of the greenside bunker on the 16th hole before making his putt to save par during Sunday’s final round of the Times-Republican City Golf Tournament at Elmwood Country Club. Benda, a three-time former champion, finished second by one stroke.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Tommy Craft reacts as his birdie putt on the 10th green slides past the cup during Sunday’s round at Elmwood Country Club. Craft, the first-day leader of the City Open, ended up in sixth place.
T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE
Now 50 years old, Steddom shot 70-68-138 to outlast Benda, a three-time champion who carded 70-69-139 for his sixth runner-up finish in tournament history.
"Since I turned 50, to be able to win both of them, I don't think anybody's done that so that's pretty special," said Steddom.
First-day leader Tommy Craft, who won the last two City Opens to finish at Elmwood, knocked himself out of contention early and couldn't recover. He shot a 5-over 40 on the front nine to erase the lead he had carried over from Saturday's opening-round 68 at the American Legion Golf Course.
Craft even beat Steddom the last time the Open's all-time winningest golfer played in the event in 2008, and don't think Steddom didn't remember that on the 18th hole.
Knowing that he, Benda and 2012 Marshalltown High School graduate Ben Wollam were all in the same neighborhood on the scorecard, Steddom stood over his short pitch from the valley in front of the 18th green with deja vu written all over it.
"It was 2008, the last time I played, I had the same shot, the same little shot and I dumped it short and then knocked it up and missed the putt," Steddom remembered vividly. "I bogeyed it and I don't know if Tommy parred it or whatever but he wound up winning by one.
"But I'll tell you what, I thought about it. I thought I hit a really good shot, it landed pretty close to the pin but it rolled past, but at least I didn't dump it. You don't forget that stuff."
A three-stroke swing between Benda and Steddom on holes 13 and 14 put Steddom out front by one shot as he went birdie-par and Benda went double bogey-bogey.
"I knew Matt had passed me on 13 and 14 but I didn't know if it was two or how many exactly," said Benda, a three-time City Open champion. "Actually I kind of relaxed and thought, 'Let's just play and quit worrying about stuff.' I didn't play great for a couple holes but I made a couple of pars. I made a nice putt on 16 that brought me out of the depths, and then I calmed down and played the last two holes nicely.
"I guess it was a good weekend for an old guy."
Seemingly unforgotten in the group was Wollam, who shot even-par 35 on the front and made nine under-the-radar pars on the back to stay within striking distance.
But he couldn't get his birdie putts to fall, and Steddom had one gift-wrapped for him on the 17th. Steddom's tee shot trickled down the hill and into the trees lining the right side of the narrow neck of the fairway in front of the green. He picked his target and missed it, but a fortuitous bounce brought him to within 5 feet of the cup.
"I think it was Steve Ruddick who was up there and he said, 'Oh, nice shot,' and I go, 'You've got to be kidding me.' I get up there and it was this far away. That was very lucky, and then Billy knocks it in (for birdie) and he knocked it in on 18 too, so I feel pretty fortunate."
Benda's back-to-back birdies to finish in put him one shot behind Steddom and one stroke in front of Wollam, who was happy to have rebounded from his ninth-place finish a year ago.
"If it was for par, I made the putt, but birdie putts weren't falling," he said. "I was scrambling to get up and down but late, the last seven or eight holes I had plenty of birdie putts that just didn't go in.
"I played solid and I didn't play my way out of the tournament. I kept myself in it. To say that I got third behind two guys that have a combined 11 city tournaments, 12 now, that's pretty cool."
Defending champion Sam Zoske shared the day's best round with Steddom, shooting a 2-under 68 to rebound from a tie for 15th after the first day to place fourth with a 141 total. Zoske had four birdies on the back nine but it wasn't enough to bring him to the top of the final leaderboard.
"My thought coming into today was ... you assume or hope that those guys back up and in essence I was three back from the leaders," said Zoske, a two-time winner. "You hope that Darin (Shipley) or Tommy do something they shouldn't do and that's kind of what you've got to hope for and then go out and play.
"Five (strokes) back isn't crazy, I've had some good rounds out here. I thought I had a chance and I did, the putts just didn't go in. A 68 is as bad as I could have played today, but it was fun, it was a good tournament."
Craft followed up his first-day 68 with a 5-over 75 to finish in sixth place. Shipley and Clint Schneider, who shared second place after Saturday's 69 at the Legion, shot 73 and 84, respectively, in placing fifth and 16th. Shipley's finish was his best ever in the City Open.
Craft, a two-time champion as well, lost his ball after hitting his tee shot right on the second hole.
"I haven't been playing very good this year and when I lose it, I lose it pretty bad," he said. "I kind of shanked one and then the confidence goes and it was a pretty bad day all around.
"I tried to come back because I thought maybe I was three back still, and on the back side you can make some birdies but then I lost another ball and there goes that idea."
Chad Moler was tied with Steddom, Benda and Wollam at even coming into Sunday's final round and birdied the first hole at Elmwood, but it was his last birdie of the day and he finished seventh after a round of 75. It was his best finish since placing third in 2005.
Alex Ward came in eighth at 146 and Trent Davis placed ninth with a 147 total. Troy Underhill was 10th, followed by Donnie Eicher and Matt Estabrook in a tie for 11th to round out the top half of the championship flight.
Jeff Schneider shot 72 and Tony Giannetto carded 73 - the two lowest rounds from outside the championship flight - to place first and second respectively in the first flight.
The lone eagle of the tournament belonged to Ryan Shore, who shot 77-74-151 to win the second flight. Shore followed up a birdie on No. 4 with his eagle on No. 5, holing out from 140 yards to gain ground on par that he said he gave right back with a bogey on No. 6 and a double bogey on the seventh.