LEBANON – The power of complete strangers.
Reunited, and it feels like there’s something to prove.
The bond between a father and a son.
It was moving day. It was Saturday at the Sullivan.
Yesterday. under steamy conditions at the 6,562-yard, par-72 Lebanon Country Club, the unique personality and character of the 75th edition of the prestigious W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners Tournament began to emerge. As it did, three distinctly different story lines involving local competitors rose to the forefront.
During Saturday’s quarterfinal round of the match-play championship flight, Lebanon Country Club member Stu Hanford and his brand-new partner, Brian Blalock, shocked the defending champions, Dan Brown and Jason Troutman, 3&1. That triumph set up a Sunday morning semifinal match-up with another LCC-flavored squad, Chris Gebhard and Jeff Daniels, a couple of new, old partners who scored a one-up quarterfinal victory over Kyle Barlow and Justin Foster.
On the other side of the championship flight bracket, the father-and-son tandem of Palmyra natives Mike Schmidt and Mike Schmidt Jr. qualified for the semifinals with a pair of victories, the last of which was a 2-up win over Brixton Albert and Tony Parkhurst in the quarterfinals. Their opponents in the semifinals will be Lancaster representatives Connor Sheehan and Reed Huntzinger, 4&3 quarterfinal victors over Drew Patterson and Chad Stine.
Sunday’s semifinals will tee off beginning at 7:30 a.m., and the final is slated for after noon.
“I didn’t have a partner, but I would’ve gotten one,” said Hanford of Blalock, who he met through a shared acquaintance mere days before qualifying. “It’s worked out so far. He’s a good dude. He’s a good player, and that’s all I had to know.”
“I think Saturday is the hardest day to get through at the Sullivan,” said Gebhard. “Saturday afternoons are the hardest matches to win. That’s when people play their best. Sometimes Sundays, people are just tired out.”
“It’s a grind,” said Mike Schmidt, Jr. “It’s survival. It’s 37 holes in 95 degree weather and humidity. It’s doing just a little better than your opponent.”
After playing in ten previous Sullivans together, the Schmidts recorded their first wins together on Saturday. First Schmidt-Schmidt, Jr. rallied from two-holes down with two to play in the morning, before finding themselves in a similar predicament in the afternoon.
But down a hole in their quarterfinal match, the Schmidts won the difficult par-four 11th with a par. They went up a hole with Schmidt, Jr.’s short biride at the par-three 14th, then closed out the match when he ran in a 12-footer at Number 18.
“Having kids makes things more emotional,” said Schmidt, Jr. “We (he and his father) don’t see each other and hang out as much as we’d like. It’s fun to spend a day on the golf course with him. I told him we’ve got to have fun first.”
The Schmidt’s had opened their afternoon match with Albert and Parkhurst with a six-foot birdie from Junior at Number One. But they lost Numbers Nine and Ten to go one-down.
“I think he’s playing very well,” said Schmidt, Sr. “I need to play a little better. I had some chances today. I need to make something early.”
“I listen better,” said Schmidt, Jr. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed he’s a lot smarter than I originally gave him credit for.”
Gebhard and Daniels had played together in this event several previous times, before Gebhard teamed with Noah Firestone to win his first two Sullian titles in 2017 and 2018. That familiarity paid dividends in their quarterfinal win over Barlow and Foster, namely in the form of a combined par on the 436-yard 18th that proved to be the difference in the match.
Gebhard and Daniels had evened the match with Gebhard’s 15-foot birdie putt at the par-three 14th. The duo had lost Numbers Ten, 12 and 13 to a birdie, a par and a par, respectively.
“I couldn’t play one year and he ended up winning it with a different partner,” said Daniels of Gebhard. “It’s great to win anything. We’ve certainly played enough golf together.”
“Jeff played great this morning,” said Gebhard. “I played better this afternoon. I have not played well the entire summer. I’m just basically grinding it out and doing the best I can with what I’ve got. We’ve played so much together that I feel comfortable, because he’s seen it before.”
Down a hole early to Barlow-Foster, Gebhard and Daniels won three straight holes, the par-four fifth, the par-four sixth and the par-five seventh, to go up two. The pair had that same two-hole advantage when Gebhard rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt at the par-three ninth.
“You’ve just got to keep doing what you do,” said Gebhard. “You’ve just got to keep fighting to the end. It’s hot, we get tired and we’re not professsionals.”
The fact that Hanford and Blalock, a resident of Redlands, California, knew nothing about each other or each other’s games before simply didn’t seem to matter. They closed out their quarterfinal struggle with Brown and Troutman with Blalock’s 20-foot birdie putt at the par-four 16th and Hanford’s 15-foot birdie putt at the par-four 17th.
“It was so sweet,” said Blalock of knocking off the defending champions. “It was extra motivation. He (Hanford) wants it too because he’s never won this tournament.”
Hanford and Blalock’s match with Brown-Troutman was a shoot-out at the start, as each of the first seven holes was won by a birdie. But Hanford-Blalock established a two-up advantage with a par at Number Eleven.
“I think during the first round of qualifying we were both a little nervous,” said Blalock. “It probably made it a little easier that I didn’t have any expectations coming in. I don’t think there’s been a putt he hasn’t read for me.”
W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners
(at Lebanon Country Club)
2019 – Dan Brown-Jason Troutman
2018 – Chris Gebhard-Noah Firestone
2017 – Chris Gebhard-Noah Firestone
2016 – Jeff Castle-Jimmy Green
2015 – Chad Stine-Drew Patterson
2014 – Brady Goodling-Kyle Deisher
2013- Scott Mayne-Derek Price
2012 – Andy Gibbons-Jimmy Gardner
2011 – Dan McCreesh-Anthony Campanile
2010 – Dan Brown-Brian Auman
2009 – Darren Zendt-Jim Rattigan
2008 — Ben Rowe-Robby Gilbert
2007 — Brian Golembiewski-Chris Schultz
2006 — Michael Tydings-Jeff Castle
2005 — Ira Cohen-David Kaplan
2004 — Chuck Tait-Scott Mayne
2003 — Ira Cohen-David Kaplan
2002 — Jim Gardner-Jim Calhoun
2001 — Dan Brown-Brian Auman
2000 — Gary Mankulish, Sr. – Gary Mankulish, Jr.
1999 — Jim Gardner-Jim Calhoun
1998 — Gary Mankulish, Sr.-Gary Mankulish, Jr.
1997 — Larry Fulkroad-Steven Shrawder
1996 — Lance Oberparleiter-Bill Kennedy
1995 — Jonathan Clark-Sean Duffy
1994 — Mike Reitz-Joe Records
1993 — Mike Reitz-Joe Records
1992 — Scott Orr-Marty Dorminy
1991 — Mark Ditzler-John Gross
1990 — Dennis Toomey-Steve Krall
1989 — Jim Douglass-Dave Johnson
1988 — Jim Douglass-Dave Johnson
1987 — Roger Karsnitz-Jay Hileman
1986 — Byron Whitman-Chuck Scally, Jr.
1985 — George Connolly-Drew Devan
1984 — Greg Lesher-Mark Ditzler
1983 — Pete Gebhard-Dave Kurtz
1982 — Bill Grove-King Knox
1981 — Hugh Vaughn III-Stu Ingraham
1980 — Hugh Vaughn III-Stu Ingraham
1979 — Hugh Vaughn III-Stu Ingraham
1978 — Hugh Vaughn III-Stu Ingraham
1977 — Rick Hirp-Charles Springfellow
1976 — Bob Kreider-Marlin Detweiler
1975 — Bob Kreider-Marlin Detweiler
1974 — Dr. John Gadd-Dr. Pete Richter
1973 — Don DeAngelis-Eric Stevenson
1972 — Wayne Jacobs-Sherman Keeney II
1971 — Bill Shoop-Joe Faller
1970 — Wayne Jacobs-Sherman Keeney II
1969 — Wayne Jacobs-Sherman Keeney II
1968 — Bobby Huber-Chuck Schmidt
1967 — James Dolan-Joseph Durante
1966 — Jim Taylor-Bob Tibbons
1965 — King Knox-Gerald Book
1964 — Jim Meyer-Larry Feldman
1963 — Earl Mumma-Charles Springfellow
1962 — Don Chornak-Jim Taylor
1961 — Bob Bierne-Bill Davidson
1960 — Charles Fink-G.J. Moeschlin, Jr.
1959 — Mike Karapcik-Wano Thompson
1958 — Joe Spesak-William Rakow
1957 — Marvin Serber-Henry McQuiston
1956 — Marvin Serber-Henry McQuiston
1955 — Al Rabold-Larry Shaw
1954 — Bob Batdorf-John Yocum
1953 — Stan Knight-Harry Offut
1952 — John Markel-Stan Ross
1951 — Serio-Stortoni-Bill Johnson
1950 — Jack Binswanger-Robert Gilbert
1949 — George Robotham-Leo Heller
1948 — H.H. Haverstick Jr.-I. Richard Herr
1947 — George Robotham-Leo Heller
1946 — Buddy Lutz-Billy Eben