LEBANON – There’s supposed to be familiarity.
There’s supposed to be a certain level of personality compatability.
There’s supposed to be some sort of inexplicable mojo that no one can quite put his or her finger on.
Throughout the game’s history, this concept of the keys to successful team golf has taken on both mythicial and mystical proportions. There’s just no way a team can win unless it checks most of those traditional boxes – or so the theory goes.
Yesterday, Stu Hanford and Brian Blalock flew directly in the face of conventional wisdom, and all the way to a coveted Sullivan championship.
On a sticky Sunday at the Lebanon Country Club’s 6,562-yard, par-72 layout, Hanford and Blalock captured the title of the 75th edition of the prestigious W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners tournament. Not only was it their first Sullivan title together and their first time competing in the event together, a week ago, if Hanford and Blalock had passed each other on the street, they wouldn’t have even known each other well enough to say ‘hello’.
In the final duel of the match-play championship flight, Hanford and Blalock edged the Lancaster tandem of Connor Sheehan and Reed Huntzinger, 19 holes. On the first extra hole of the sudden-death playoff – LCC’s 382-yard, par-four Number One – Hanford rolled in a ten-foot birdie putt for the victory.
For Hanford, a long-time LCC member, it was his first Sullivan championship, following years of trying with a handful of different partners. For Blalock, a resident of Redlands, California who was introduced to Hanford by a member of LCC’s pro staff, he hadn’t even heard of the Sullivan until a few weeks ago.
The outcome also represented the fourth straight year that a team with direct Lebanon County ties has garnered the Sullivan championship.
“It can be true,” said Hanford of all the shared intangibles that supposedly make a good partner, “but in this case it wasn’t. We just clicked. It just happened. I got lucky. It fell in my lap.
“Brian was the key,” continued Hanford. “He was there for me. We hammed-and-egged it very well. It was just good chemistry. He’s really easy to get along with.”
“I do think those things are true,” said Blalock. “I don’t think they’re not important. The assistant pro vouched for Stu, and he vouched for me to Stu. I had all the confidence in the world.
“We did not play a good qualifying round,” Blalock continued. “But we did learn from each other, and it boosted my confidence. I can’t coach him. But now I can’t wait to repeat next year.”
Hanford calmly sank his championship-winning putt at Number One, after misfiring on a similar 10-footer that would’ve clinched it a hole earlier at the par-four 18th. Time and time again on Sunday, both Hanford and Blalock put themselves in position for make-able birdie putts.
Hanford-Blalock had qualified for the championship match with a 4&3 triumph over locals Chris Gebhard and Jeff Daniels in Sunday morning’s semifinal round. Sheehan-Huntzinger had reached the final match with a 3&1 victory over the Palmyra father-son duo of Mike Schmidt and Mike Schmidt, Jr.
“The only thing I was thinking was ‘put a good stroke on it and get it on line,'” said Hanford of the decisive roll. “I wasn’t thinking about winning. I wasn’t thinking about losing.
“I grew up at this place,” said Hanford. “I grew up watching people play in this tournament and win it. It’s new. It’s still fresh. It’s pretty good. It’s pretty sweet. But it was nice coming off the first hole and seeing (long-time former LCC head professional) Mike Swisher. I felt like I won it for Mike.”
“It didn’t matter which one of us made the putt,” said Blalock. “We just wanted to win. We just wanted to put it in the hole.”
Hanford’s championship-clinching putt also came after it appeared that monentum had swung in the favor of Sheehan-Huntzinger. Sheehan had rolled in back-to-back ten-footers at the 523-yard, par-five 15th hole and the 372-yard, par-four 16th to square the match at all even.
“We lost (number) 15 and we lost (number) 16, and I thought was a huge turning point,” said Hanford. “We lost back-to-back holes. It was tough. They (Sheehan-Huntzinger) grinded all day.
“I thought I played better yesterday,” added Hanford. “I putted well, that was the key. You can always play better. I played well enough today. Not to detract from our opponents, but we happened to get lucky.”
“It built up this weekend,” said Blalock of his awareness of the prestige of The Sullivan. “When I got here, I didn’t know how prestigious it was, how difficult it is to win it. But winning it for Stu made it even better. Being the guy whose name is next to Stu’s, and what he means to this club, it’s an honor.”
Hanford-Blalock enjoyed an early two-up advantage, thanks to Hanford’s ten-foot bride at Number One and his 30-footer at the 398-yard, par-four fourth hole. Sheehan Huntzinger got those holes back at Numbers Six and Seven, before Hanford-Blalock won the par-three 12th hole with a par and the par-four 13th with Hanford’s seven-foot birdie.
“I knew some of the scores he shot,” said Hanford of Blalock. “I knew he was a winner. I knew it was there. All he needed was a little local knowlege.”
“I’m so happy for this guy,” said Blalock of Hanford. “I did everything I could for him. It was just so much fun playing team golf. He let me play my game. When I made a mistake, he made a birdie. And when he made a mistake, I made a birdie.”
The championship of the first flight was shared by the teams of William Smith-Jim Hughes and Bailey Sophy-Nick Hand, who carded matching three-day totals of 202. The second flight went to Dan Ayers and Joe Russo and their 73-70-63=206.
Meanwhile, in the third flight, top honors went to Daniel Eggerston and Bryan Kordupel, who registered a 74-69-68=211 total. The team of Jesse Hazam-Tyler Zeiders fired a 75-70-68=213 to capture the fourth-flight championship.
W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners
(at Lebanon Country Club)
2020 – Stu Hanford-Brian Blalock
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