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BY JEFF FALK

Times change. Society evolves. Priorities shift. People grow.

There exists this romantic, traditional and ideological concept of what the Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship should be. It may no longer be this compilation of the top local competitors coming together to determine who’s the best player, and to decide the championship of local amateur golf.

But it’s still the best local golf tournament around.

The 63rd edition of the 36-hole Lebanon County Amateur will be contested this weekend on Pine Meadows Golf Course’s par-72, 6037-yard tract, with many of the same sub-plots from the past. Justin Arnt is both the County Amateur’s tournament director and its defending champion.

“I feel the same way. That’s why I’m involved,” said Arnt. “The Lebanon County Golf Associations is constantly discussing changes to bring in more people. We throw around different ideas on ways to make it better.

“It is prestigious,” added Arnt. “It means a lot to keep it going. I think it’s a generational thing, and the cost of golf is going up. We need help from the local golf courses to improve the event. We have to figure out how to bring more people to the game. We need to grow the game and we need younger kids to get involved.”

The player field for this year’s Lebanon County Amateur is expected to be similar in size to the 2020 event, which was contested in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic at Lebanon Valley Golf Course in Myerstown. With numbers in the mid 20s, a strong group of competitors that includes John DiGiacomo, Chris Gebhard, Steve Allwein, Bill Massar, Jr,. Kerry Wentling and Craig Kliewer are poised to give Arnt’s repeat bid a run for its money.

“I’m looking at the entry list, and it’s the usual favorites,” said Arnt. “It feels like half of the field legitimately has a chance, and it could be more than that. We’d definitely like to get more players, but I’m happy with the number of guys willing to play. There’s also a district event in Harrisburg this weekend, and there’s about six or eight guys who would’ve played or who have played in the past.

“Last year, despite COVID-19, I felt we still had a decent turnout,” continued Arnt. “It was just nice seeing people out on the golf course, getting back into the swing of things. As far as winning, it was special because I was able to do it while running the tournament, and I did it on my home course.”

In 2020 at Lebanon Valley, Arnt was the only player to post a total – 66-7=138 – that was under par. His four-under-par, two-day total was six shots better than runner-up DiGiacomo’s.

It was Arnt’s first Lebanon County Amateur title, following years of being in contention for the crown.

“It was just new to me, juggling the scoring and trying to play well,” said Arnt. “Now, I think I can focus enough to play the way I can play. I find that when I get into tournaments like this that I can focus more.

“Last year, my game wasn’t where I wanted it to be going in,” Arnt added. “But I can grind out a round. I’ve been playing decent this year. I’m playing better going into this year’s tournament. But I try not to get too ahead of myself.”

Pine Meadows presents its own unique set of challenges. The course isn’t particularly long, but trouble can find competitors, if they don’t find it first.

“Pine Meadows is completely different than Lebanon Valley,” said Arnt. “Pine Meadows can be lengthier, but I don’t think we’ll be playing its full length. There will be par-threes and par-fours where you’ll be hitting longer clubs, so you’ll be usinga all the clubs in your bag.

“Pine Meadows places a premium on keeping it in the fairway, just keeping the ball in play,” Arnt continued. “It’ll be a fair test. I’m sure the greens will be quick, and maybe pins in tricky positions.”

To purchase images in this article please email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championships

Past Champions

(Year, Player, Score and Course)  

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

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