MERIDEN — Spencer Wedge saved the best until last in the Meriden Hyundai City of Meriden Golf Championships.
The 21-year old, a former three-time City Junior Champion, recorded his only birdie of the day on the par-5 18th hole to beat defending champion Les Zimmerman by one shot Sunday at Hunter Golf Club.
Zimmerman was trying for a record-breaking 11th City title, but ran into trouble with an errant driver on consecutive holes to lose any chance he had of repeating.
Zimmerman began the day tied with another three-time Junior Champion, Nick Shemkovitz, after both carded 4-over par 75s in Saturday’s opening round. Then Zimmerman put his tee shot on the par-4 9th hole just over the fence that separates the 9th from an adjacent cemetery. The 64-year old Zimmerman followed with a tee-shot into the pond on No. 10.
“I made two bad swings all day and they cost me,” Zimmerman said. “You can’t win giving away three penalty strokes, but congratulations to Spencer. He won it. All you can ask for is to be in the hunt and I was certainly in position.”
Zimmerman still carried a one-shot lead into the par-3 17th, but came away with a bogey after Wedge rammed in a six-foot par putt. That set the stage for the decisive final hole.
“I hit a mediocre shot off the tee and didn’t get up-and-down,” Zimmerman said. “I knew I needed a two-shot lead coming to No. 18 with Spencer hitting it a mile off the tee.”
Sure enough, Wedge blasted his drive down the middle, leaving a 170-yard approach shot. His ball just carried the sand trap guarding the left side of the green, finishing in the short fringe. Meanwhile, Zimmerman missed his birdie putt and tapped for a par. Wedge chipped up to five feet and calmly made the putt to win the hole and the title.
“I just grinded it out today,” he said after beginning the day three strokes behind the co-leaders. “I putted pretty well. On 17, I was a foot to the right and two inches behind him. I went first and banged it in. I was a little nervous on the 18th tee. I’m sure my heart rate was a little above normal.”
Meanwhile, Shemkovitz made the turn with a one-stroke lead after Zimmerman’s double-bogey on No. 9. The strong run ended on the 15th hole.
“I was playing really well on the front and started the back playing well,” Shemkovitz said. “On 15, I hit a fantastic drive right down the middle. I hit my approach shot five feet from the pin and it kicked left off the green and into a terrible lie.”
The 18-year old’s worries continued when he bogeyed No. 16 and double-bogeyed No, 17 to end any hopes of winning. But his future appears as solid as his golf game.
“I learned that I have to control my emotions,” Shemkovitz admitted. “And I learned I have to develop a go-to shot.”
There was no upset in the Women’s Championship as Katie Grobsky captured her seventh women’s title and fifth in a row after adding an 85 to her opening round 88. She began the day with a six-shot lead over Sue Grenert and finished with a 12-shot margin over former champion Cheryl Perito, who carded a 93 to move into the runner-up spot.
“I hit my driver a lot better today, but I just wish I could play better,”Grobsky said. “My first time out this year, I shot a 79, then 76, then 80. The last week I’ve been in the mid-to-high 80s. I just wish I could play to my potential. It’s great to win, but 88 and 85 are not up to my standards”
In other action, Howie Benane won the First Flight with scores of 78-77-155. Rick Merliss captured the Second Flight with scores of 85-83-168.
Third Flight low-net honors went to Fernendo Solis with a score of 138 after-handicap. Dick Crane captured the low-gross prize with a 173 total, while Larry Kendzior was the low-net runner-up with a 147 total after-handicap.
In the Non-Residents Flight, Chuck Stupakevich added a low round of the day 71 to his opening 76 for 147 aggregate. Ralph Giansanti was second low gross with a 151 total, while Duke Higgins was third with a 155 total. Fred Lord captured the low net honors with 136 after-handicap, three shots ahead of Don Cyr and six in front of Dennis Murphy.
The City Of Meriden Golf Championships have been sponsored by Meriden Hyundai for the past five years.