FREDERICKSBURG – John DiGiacomo isn’t the same man he was 20 years ago. While that may not be much of a revelation, his evolution as a human being has certainly had a profound effect on his golf game.
Kinder and gentler? Those are your words, not mine. But you certainly won’t get any arguments here.
On a steamy Sunday at the 6,037-yard, par-72 Pine Meadows Golf Course, the new and improved DiGiacomo captured his second Lebanon County Amateur championship, but first in 20 years. DiGiacomo did it by firing the only under-par round of the tournament, a second-day score of 69 or three-under par, for a 36-hole total of 146.
DiGiacomo had entered the second and final round trailing opening-day leader Chris Gebhard by three shots, but quickly erased that deficit with a hot start on Sunday. In the end, DiGiacomo finished with a three-stroke victory over defending champion and co-tournament director Justin Arnt, who carded a second-round 73 for a total of 149.
Finishing in a tie for third was Gehbard, who recorded a 77 on Sunday to go with his opening-round 74, and Ben Feeman, who totaled a 77-74=151. Another shot back was the trio of Craig Kliewer, Steve Allwein and Matt Anderson.
DiGiacomo has enjoyed a colorful run at the Lebanon County Amateur, since claiming the 2001 crown a Royal Oaks as an 18-year-old. In 2015 at Lebanon Valley, DiGiacomo fired an opening-round 66 for a three-shot lead, only to card a 79 on Sunday.
“It’s kind of nice to come from behind,” said DiGiacomo. “Sleeping on the lead is hard. I feel more pressure being in the lead. It’s nice to win, to know you can still compete with some of the younger guys. It wasn’t as full of a field, but it’s still nice to have the ‘W’.
“I knew I was in the hunt,” DiGiacomo continued. “It’s been about 20 years since I’ve won it. When I was 18, I didn’t have the nerves I do now. I started to feel the pressure on (Number) 13.”
“I played good, and I was one short of what I wanted to shoot,” said Arnt. “Everybody has their time. I had mine last year. John deserved to win. John had a heck of a round to shoot under par.”
As streaky a player as there is locally, DiGiacomo heated up early and birdied four of his first six holes.
He two-putted the 276-yard, par-four second hole for birdie, then rolled in a 15-foot downhill birdie putt at the 310-yard, par-four fourth. DiGiacomo also registered back-to-back birdies at the par-five Fifth and Sixth holes, to get to four-under for his round and one-over for the event.
“Coming into today, I had a number in mind, and I thought 70, at the most,” said DiGiacomo. “When I was out on the course, I had no idea where I stood, and I didn’t want to know, because I would’ve played that. I wanted to make as many birdies and pars as I could. Luckily, I was able to squeak it out.”
With no one really making a serious move in the group ahead of him, DiGiacomo got up and down for birdie at the par-five tenth hole to pad his lead. He channeled his nervous energy into a birdie at the 301-yard, par-four 14th.
“I didn’t sleep a wink last night,” said DiGiacomo. “I actually ate some food today before I golfed, and I felt relaxed. I knew I could do it. It just kind of made sense in my mind.
“One of the reasons I play in this is to get a chance to qualify for the match-play tournament (in October at the Lebanon Country Club),” added DiGiacomo. “It’s my favorite event. It’s match play and it’s my home course, and I feel like I have an advantage. But this is still a great event. I just wish more guys would play. Tommy Kintzer (Pine Meadows superintendent) has this course in immaculate condition.”
Playing in the final group of the day, Arnt was the only player to really apply any pressure on DiGiacomo.
Arnt birdied the 132-yard, par-three ninth hole from 30 feet away and canned a short birdie putt at the par-five tenth, to get his round to one-under par and his total to three-over par, one shot off the pace that DiGiacomo was setting. But Arnt took bogeys at the par-three 13th and the par-four 16th.
“I heard from someone that John had a good front,” said Arnt. “But all I was trying to do was stay in front of the guys in my group. I didn’t think about that (defending his title) at all.
“If any competitive golfer tells you they don’t have nerves, they’re lying,” continued Arnt. “I had nerves. I tried to control it and tried to stay calm.”
Arnt began his day with bogeys at Numbers Two and Three. But he responded with a short birdie at the par-five fifth hole.
“Coming into today, I wanted to shoot even par,” said Arnt. “I thought if I could shoot that, there are a lot of holes out here where you can be just off. The greens were firm and you had to be defensive. It was much more methodical. But the course was great. It was fair and it was challenging.”
The first-round leader, Gebhard got on the board with a birdie at Number Two. But he endured back-to-back double bogeys at the par-five fifth and sixth holes.
Feeman, the reigning Lebanon County Scholastic Champion who’ll be a junior at Cedar Crest in the fall, got his Sunday round to one-under par thanks to birdies at Numbers Four and Five. But he did not register another birdie the rest of the day.
Meanwhile, Bill Massar, Jr. recorded consecutive 78s for a total of 156, to win the first flight by five strokes. At the top of the second flight, Kerry Wentling carded an 87-82=169 and Jim Pesta registered a 79-90=169.
(Year, Player, Score and Course)
2021 – John DiGiacomo, 146, PM
2020- Justin Arnt, 138, LV
2019- Jim Gardner, 134, LV
2018 – Tyler Massar, 136, BM
2017 – Dan Brown, 136, FV
2016 – Jim Gardner, 139, PM
2015 – Jim Gardner, 141, LV
2014 – Dan Brown, 140, RO
2013 – Mike Schmidt, Jr., 136, FV
2012 – Tony Deraco, 136 BMV
2011 – Dan Brown, 142, PM
2010 – Ryan Schneiter, MV
2009 — Tim Leeper, 138, LV
2008 — Mike Schmidt Jr., 139, RO
2007 — Andy Gibbons, 140, FV
2006 — Jim Gardner, 104 BMV (27 holes)
2005 — Bill Massar Jr., 139 PM
2004 — Blaine Peffley, 144 BM
2003 — Chris Gebhard, 137 MV
2002 — Joe Faller, 139, FV
2001 — Jon DiGiacomo, 145, RO
2000 — Blaine Peffley, 143, FV
1999 — Roger Karsnitz, 146, MV
1998 — Chad Schulze, 139, FV
1997 — Chad Schulze, 144, MV
1996 — Chris Gebhard, 141, FV
1995 — Bill Massar Jr., 71, MV (18 holes)
1994 — John Gross, 144, MV
1993 — Mike Schmidt, 143, MV
1992 — Jeff Hoke, 148, MV
1991 — Joe Faller, 147, MV
1990 — Dennis Toomey, 145, MV
1989 — Joe Faller, 146, MV
1988 — Bob Page, 146, MV
1987 — Michael Brooks, 149, MV
1986 — John Gross, 147, MV
1985 — Pete Gebhard, 145, MV
1984 — Bob Page, 139, BM
1983 — Roger Karsnitz, 148, FV
1982 — Pete Gebhard, 72, MV (18 holes)
1981 — Stu Ingraham, 140, LV
1980 — Ben Witter, 141, MV
1979 — Tom Lape, 140, BM
1978 — Stu Ingraham, 144, FV
1977 — Russ Ditzler, 145, PM
1976 — Jim Sherman, 138, LV
1975 — Bob Page, 150, MV
1974 — Kye Golembewski, 141, BM
1973 — George Eisley, 147, FV
1972 — Roger Karsnitz, 144, PM
1971 — William Weik, 142, LV
1970 — Paul Ingraham, 157, MV
1969 — Bob Page, 144, BM
1968 — Ron Will, 147, FV
1967 — Bob Page, 139, PM
1966 — William Weik, 143, LV
1965 — Joseph Spesak, 141, BM
1964 — Tom Donnachie Jr., 149, FV
1963 — William Weik, 149, LCC
1962 — Joseph Spesak, 140, LV
1961 — Tom Donnachie Jr., 144, FV
1960 — Joseph Spesak, 145, LCC
1959 — George Moeschlin Jr., 144, LV
Key: RO — Royal Oaks, FV — Fairview, MV — Monroe Valley, BM — Blue Mountain, LV — Lebanon Valley, PM — Pine Meadows, LCC — Lebanon Country Club