BY JEFF FALK
LICKDALE – It may be the least prestigious of the local amateur golf’s ‘majors’. But it also might be the most competitive and the most hotly-contested.
Parity earned the first-round lead Saturday at the 24th annual Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners tournament, at Monroe Valley Golf Course’s par-72, 6,455-yard layout. The fact that seven teams are within two shots of the lead just reinforced the old golf adage that ‘two-day tournaments aren’t won on the first day, but they can be lost then’.
Setting the precarious pace are the teams of Greg Behney-Tom Kintzer and Darren Lutz-Jesse Brown, who matched each other with first-day five-under-par 67s. Those two teams will carry a one-shot lead over defending champs Steve Allwein-Mike Schmidt, Jr. and Brady Demey-Justin Arnt into Sunday’s final 18 holes.
Another stroke back, after shooting three-under 69s on Saturday, are Bill Massar, Jr.-Dave Berkheimer, Ron Heisey-Dave Snader and Nate Wentling-Travis Leonard.
“It shows you there’s a lot of good golfers in Lebanon County,” said Behney. “And that you’ve got to play well both days to win. You can’t give anything away to these guys. And there’s a lot of good golfers not even playing in this tournament.
“Next to the Sullivan, this is my favorite event,” Behney continued. “And I love playing with Tom Kintzer. I only started playing golf in my 20s and he’s the guy who helped me along. When I met him, I was a hack.”
“Well, to be honest, we’re not in it for the money,” continued Lutz. “It’s a prestige tournament. It’s for bragging rights and claiming the prize at the end.”
Lutz and Brown played their own form of ‘long ball’ to ravage Monroe Valley’s par-fives. Of their six birdies on the day, four of them were yielded by the par-fives.
“I think Jesse probably had a better day than I did,” said Lutz. “He had two more birdies than me. He played pretty stellar today. He has no fear. It doesn’t matter if he hits it in the fairway or hits it under a tree, he’s making par. We killed the par-fives. We birdied every one.
“Our games sort of match,” added Lutz. “We’re care-free. We don’t lay up. We just go for it. This is our fifth or sixth year of playing together in this. We came close a couple of times, but never put it together on Sunday. We haven’t put ourselves in a position like this before. This is new for us.”
Brown and Lutz were a modest one-over par through five holes, before back-to-back-to-back birdies at numbers six, seven and eight got them going. On the back nine, they registered birds at the par-five 11th and at the par-four 15th.
“At number 18, we felt like one more birdie would get us where we want to be,” said Lutz. “And Jesse made an eight-footer. It kind of defined the round. I think we’ll have to go a little lower tomorrow. There’s a lot of good teams here who struggled today. I think tomorrow is going to be a fun day. This is local. This is what we do. It should be a pretty relaxing day.
While Kintzer was in charge of making pars for his team, Behney took care of the birdies. Behney sank a total of five birdie putts, many of which were of the shorter variety.
“We didn’t make any bogeys,” said Behney. “I had five birdies and Tom had some crucial par saves.
“I played pretty good actually,” added Behney. “It was a good solid round. But it does take two. I don’t want to make it sound singular. He made some great shots to make par.”
Behney and Kintzer’s first birdie was a tap-in at the par-five sixth hole, after Behney lipped out an eagle attempt. Behney birdied the par-four tenth, before he and Kintzer notched birds on three of the last four finishing holes.
“We won the county better-ball championship a couple of years ago,” said Kintzer. “But you always want to get a second championship to validate it. We came in expecting to validate it. Our goal tomorrow is to shoot three-under on each side, and get a 66.”
Save for a rough stretch from holes eight through ten, Allwein and Schmidt played some outstanding golf. Bogeys at those three holes were offset by seven birdies. The two recorded pars on only eight holes.
“Stevie played well,” said Schmidt. “And I watched.”
Following a couple of earlier hiccups, Demey and Arnt finished with a flurry. They were just a modest one-under par, before birdies at the par-four 15th, the par-four 16th and the par-five 18th got them to four-under.
Both Wentling-Leonard and Massar, Jr.-Berkheimer were even-par at the turn, then played the back-nine at three-under par clips. Heisey and Snader were one up on par over their first nine holes, and two better than it during their second nine.
Lebanon County Better Ball Champions
|No tournament due to flooding||2011|
|Steve Allwein and Mike Schmidt||64-68-132||Royal Oaks||2010|
|Jim Gardner and Brain Auman||60-65-125||Fairview||2009|
|Tom Kintzer and Greg Behney||66-65-131||Blue Mountain||2008|
|Stu Hanford and Don Johnson||64-67-131||Pine Meadows||2007|
|Perry Umlauf and Shawn Cooper||66-66-132||Royal Oaks||2005|
|Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons||62-67-129||Pine Meadows||2004|
|Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons||66-60-126||Fariview||2003|
|Dan Brown and Chad Schulze||61-65-126||Lebanon Valley||2002|
|Bob Wenrich and John Hacunda||70-64-134||Monroe Valley||2000|
|John Digiacomo and Blaine Peffley||64-67-131||Fairview||1999|
|Joe Faller and Phil Faller||65-74-139||Monroe Valley||1998|
|Jim Gardner and Jim Calhoun||68-67-135||Fairview||1997|
|Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz||70-64-134||Fairview||1995|
|Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz||65-68-133||Fairview||1994|
|Mark Ditzler and Tom Sherk||69-68-137||Fairview||1992|
|Jeff Pyles and Jeff Behney||70-68-138||Fairview||1991|
|Rick Troutman and Pete Gebhard||70-65-135||Fairview||1990|
|Joe Faller and Dave Kurtz||66-67-133||Fairview||1989|
|Bob Page and Bill Shoop||68-65-133||Fairview||1988|