Two down-to-the-wire matches highlighted the semifinal round of the 75th annual Mills Creek Championship golf tournament Sunday morning.
Tim Belden and Randy Manuella went to the 18th hole before a winner was decided, and Belden earned a 1-up victory.
Meanwhile, Gabe Zeller and Gavin Cox needed an extra hole to decide their match — and Zeller parred No. 1 in a sudden death playoff to advance to the scheduled 36-hole title match, beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday.
Belden, the 2009 champion, and Manuella, a six-time winner — 1979, 1982, 1984, 1990, 1991, 1999 — were both under par for the day. Belden carded 36-33—69 and Manuella 36-34—70. The course plays to 36-35 par of 71.
"Neither of us putted that well today," said Belden, who was the medalist in the qualifier a week ago with a one-under-par 70.
"Its great to see Randy playing again. He's a class act," said Belden who moved to Castalia in January.
Belden, a Port Clinton High School graduate, was also the runner-up to Joel Foss in 2002 and 2010.
"The key hole for me was No. 3 the second time around when I had a good up-and-down and made a putt that put me 1-up at the time," he said. "I also won No. 4 with a par to give me a cushion, but Randy comes right back to win No. 5 and we parred the next three holes, so I still had a 1-up lead going into 18."
Belden then put the match away with a five-foot birdie putt on No. 9.
"I just could not get the speed down on the putts today," Manuella said. "The greens are great and I had just one three-putt before today, but three of them. Putting comes and goes at times and that's what happened today."
He was striving to become the oldest golfer to ever win the event, which was initiated in 1940. Manuella is 61.
"Tim had me three down after four holes and I had a three-putt on the first hole," Manuella said."I got it back to even but never could get a lead. Tim is a great guy to lose to and what a great family he comes from."
Will he be back?
"I'm playing it one day at a time right now, but it was nice to get back playing golf," said Manuella, the Perkins boys golf coach said.
It marked the first time Manuella has played in the event since losing to Jeff Sennish in the 2001 final.
Zeller talked about his round.
"I'm a high ball hitter and it was tough for me out there today," he said. "I had three doubles (bogeys) and was six over for the round and there were some interesting holes, that's for sure. The key hole for me was No. 5 (par five)."
Zeller won the hole both times, first with an eagle and then with a birdie.
"And one of my doubles came on No. 2 when twice I chipped onto the green only to have the ball roll downhill," Zeller said. "Then on No. 3, I really had one great par when I made a 10-footer after going from one side to the other.
"I had a chance to win today on the last hole, but had a five-foot birdie putt lip the cup and roll away," he added. "I thought I had blown it, but I did not make a mistake going back out on no. 1."
A two-putt par was enough to advance. The 2000 Sandusky High graduate has played in the tournament 17 years in a row, making the semis in 2012 and now this time in the finals.
"Tim beat me last year in the first round on the final hole," Zeller added.