BY JEFF FALK
REXMONT – It was what the local golf community had wondered about for 13 years, since Iron Valley opened in 2000. How would Lebanon County’s best amateur golfers fare on Lebanon County’s most difficult public course, under tournament conditions?
For at least one day, we’ll call it a draw.
Under ideal conditions on Saturday, during the opening round of the first Lebanon County Golf Association tournament ever contested at Iron Valley Golf Course, five teams tied for the lead at the 22nd annual Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners event. The duos of Jim Gardner-Brian Auman, Jesse Brown-Darren Lutz, Cody Kersey-Mike Potts, Chris Gebhard-Steve Allwein and Mike Schmidt-Ryan Weaber all fired two-under par scores of 70 over the tight, unforgiving 6,542-yard, par-72 layout.
The only other under-par score posted came from Brock Hoover-Jeff Marks and their 71. Meanwhile, the teams of Tony Deraco-Tim Leeper, Chuck Schwab-Doug Meyer, Ron Heisey-Dave Snader and Matt Lebo-Ben Winters registered two-over par scores of 74, while Rick Troutman-Logan Sheetz and Tom Kintzer-Greg Behney were another shot back at three-over 75.
Defending champs Bill Massar, Jr.-David Berkheimer carded an 80.
The 36-hole medal-play tournament will conclude Sunday, as the leaders will tee it up at 9 a.m. as part of the final groups of the championship flight. A total of 28 teams are competing in the event.
“I think Iron Valley is one of the best courses in the area,” said Kersey. “And I’m glad they put it in the rotation (of LCGA tournaments).”
“We were actually excited when we heard they would be holding the County better-ball here,” said Lutz, who along with Brown was last year’s runner-up. “This is a tougher course. This is one of the toughest courses in Lebanon County.”
“Iron Valley wanted to get in the rotation,” said Gardner, who’s very active in the LCGA. “I could see having an individual event here one year. That’s great. We’d like to have them in the rotation.”
“I’m sad to see 28 teams,” said Auman. “Is golf on the downside, or do people just want to have fun when they’re playing? Maybe they don’t want to play a six-hour round. Maybe this course chases the people away.”
Gardner-Auman, who won this event in 2009 at Fairview, enjoyed the steadiest of 70s. Their round consisted of 14 pars, three birds and a lone bogey.
“What works for us is that neither of us gets too pumped up,” said Auman. “We don’t worry about it. If we make a bogey it’s like: ‘We’ve got 15 more holes.’ We trust each other.”
Gardner-Auman got on the board when Auman rolled in a short birdie putt at the 427-yard, par-four sixth hole. They stayed at one-under until giving it back with a bogey at the 542-yard, par-five 13th test.
But Gardner birdied the par-four 14th from 20-feet and two-putted for birdie at the par-five 16th.
“I thought the low score would’ve been around four-under, just because of the par-fives,” said Auman. “I wouldn’t have said any lower because the pins were in a tough place.
“We were holding it together today,” Auman continued. “But neither one of us was out of holes. It was tough to get it close and make birdies.”
Lutz-Brown’s 70 was much more of a roller coaster ride. Following a slow start, Lutz-Brown ‘made their hay’ on IV’s par-fives.
Down three shots to par, Lutz-Brown were five-under over their final 12 holes. Brown was personally responsible for four of those, rolling in short putts at the 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th.
“We had a bad start,” said Lutz, who is playing with Brown in this event for the eighth time. “If we wouldn’t have had that start, it could’ve been lower. But we played well on the back. We were surprised 70 was low.
“We were looking at three- or four-under (as being the low score), a couple under on each nine,” Lutz continued. “Every hole (cup) was on a crown. It was tough to make putts.”
Similarly, Kersey-Potts got off to a sluggish start, with bogeys at the par-four first hole and the par-five third hole. But Potts got his side going with a short birdie at the par-four sixth hole and a 15-footer at the par-five seventh.
“It was OK,” said Kersey of the round. “We started off a little slow. But we didn’t make many putts.
“In all honesty, when we got to two over, we started hitting the ball,” Kersey added. “Number One was brutal this morning with the wind. We just started playing steady.”
On the back, Kersey chimed in with a 15-foot birdie at the par-five 13th and a ten-footer on the 165-yard, par-three 17th.
“I thought 69 or 70 would be right there,” said Kersey. “But I thought there might be a team who could shoot 68 or 67. Out here, keeping it between the trees is key. If you hit it in the wrong spot, you’re in trouble.”
Gebhard-Allwein were just as even-keeled as Auman-Gardner. After going birdie-bogey-birdie from Holes Three through Five, Gebhard-Allwein didn’t sustain a bogey the rest of the way.
Before finishing with a flurry, Schmidt-Weaber suffered a double bogey at the par-three fifth hole. They birded the par-three 12th, the par-five 13th, the par-five 16th and the par-four 18th to register a four-under 32 on the back.
Schmidt won his second Lebanon County amateur golf championship back in July at Fairview.
Lebanon County Better Ball Past Champions
|Bill Massar Jr. and Dave Berkheimer
|No tournament due to flooding
|Steve Allwein and Mike Schmidt
|Jim Gardner and Brain Auman
|Tom Kintzer and Greg Behney
|Stu Hanford and Don Johnson
|Perry Umlauf and Shawn Cooper
|Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons
|Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons
|Dan Brown and Chad Schulze
|Bob Wenrich and John Hacunda
|John Digiacomo and Blaine Peffley
|Joe Faller and Phil Faller
|Jim Gardner and Jim Calhoun
|Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz
|Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz
|Mark Ditzler and Tom Sherk
|Jeff Pyles and Jeff Behney
|Rick Troutman and Pete Gebhard
|Joe Faller and Dave Kurtz
|Bob Page and Bill Shoop