By Craig Pearson
TERRE HAUTE — Anything can happen on the final day at Hulman Links, as Tribune-Star golf columnist Bob Arnett reiterated Sunday, and it nearly did in the final round of the WTHI Men’s City Championship.
Ted Kaperak was fortunate to come away with his seventh title Sunday after carding a rare 76. After his tee shot went to the right side of the fairway, his second shot on the par-4 18th hit the water but skipped toward the green, settling in the front-side bunker.
“That water’s thick,” Kaperak joked afterward.
“It spun out of the water into the bunker. I was real lucky. I’ve seen players play shots like that before, actually try to skip it off the water. A couple years back on TV, I saw a pro do that ... but I was definitely not trying to do that.”
Kaperak, 55, then recovered with a fantastic shot from the bunker that had just a little too much speed, rolling inches from the pin before stopping about 10 feet below the cup. He missed the 10-foot par putt and tapped in for bogey.
Tom Jones, also going for his seventh city championship, had a short chip for par that would have sent the tournament to a playoff had he made it from the tough lie that was below the hole.
“[Kaperak] kind of left the door open a little bit. I thought I hit a really good second shot, but it just ran down the hill a little bit and got in a couple clumps of grass and I didn’t execute a very good chip,” Jones said of a shot that dribbled just to the edge of the fringe.
While Kaperak was happy with his bunker lie on 18, he wasn’t so thrilled on 15 when his shot came out of the sand flat and bounced past the green. He let his displeasure known after the shot and again after the round.
“Not a fan of the bunkers here,” he said. “The same thing happened to me last year. I hit the ball behind it and my club bounced into it. There just wasn’t enough sand under the ball. The bunkers here will have sand in some spots and not in others. In the bunker shot here [on No. 18], it was in the middle where the sand settles.”
Kaperak and Jones almost gave some of the younger up-and-coming golfers a chance. Two-time winner Troy Farris and Charlie Kluesner shot rounds of 71 to give themselves a chance. And 23-year-old Stu Johnson bogeyed the final three holes; three pars would have put him in a tie for the lead.
“I’m ready for some of these 20- and 30-year-olds to come along and start winning these things and let us 50-some year-olds just retire and go play the senior tournaments,” Jones said, but he and Kaperak said they’ll be competing for the men’s city title as long as they’re competitive.
Golfers enjoy the competition against one other as much as any athlete, but Kaperak said he left the course with some disappointment.
“I won the tournament, but I still feel I lost because I didn’t break even par,” said Kaperak, who has a plus-2 handicap. “That’s what I do when I come out and play. That’s why my handicap’s what it is.
“A lot of people don’t realize that. I do have fun with a lot of people I play golf with, but I come out here to play the course.”
Kaperak won his first two men’s city championships in the 1980s, the first in 1983 and the second in 1988. He didn’t get his next one until 1995, mainly due to a four-year run by Jones from ’91-94.
Kaperak hadn’t won since 2000 but now finds himself behind only 18-time champ Gene Verostko on the all-time win list.
“Before 1970, there’s not very many names on the list [of winners],” said Kaperak, whose uncle, George Kaperak, won the city twice. He died Sept. 2 at 86. Ted’s other uncle, Mike Kaperak, also won two city titles; Ted’s win makes it 11 for the family.
Ted’s nephew James caddied for his uncle this weekend. The 16-year-old, whose best round at Hulman is 80, said he hopes to carry on the family tradition.
“I’m amazed,” James said. “Hopefully, I can win one when I get older.”
Craig Pearson can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4357.