BY JEFF FALK
Winning it once is hard. Doing it two times is more than twice as difficult.
Figuring out the odds of winning it in consecutive years, well that might require higher math.
That’s OK, Tony Deraco has stared down long odds before.
This weekend at Fairview Golf Course in Quentin, Deraco will be looking to repeat as Lebanon County Amateur golf champion. He will enter the annual tournament as the reigning champ, but not the favorite, after becoming the oldest player to win the locale’s championship of amateur golf last June at Blue Mountain.
Awaiting Deraco at the 6,305-yard, par-71 layout will be a field of 63 players, one which features both quality and quantity. The two-day, 36-hole event will spring into action with morning tee times on both Saturday and Sunday.
“There’s not really pressure,” said Deraco. “Since 2003, when I first started playing in The Amateur, no one has gone back-to-back. So there’s no pressure. There’s 20 guys in the field who can win this thing on any given weekend. There’s more pressure to play well and not embarrass yourself. There’s no pressure to repeat, but it would be a dream and something really fantastic.
“What sticks in my mind about last year is that everything kind of came together,” Deraco. “I hit my driver well. I hit my irons well. I putted well. For us amateur players, when you have tournaments like that, it stays with you. That’s a nice memory. It was a special weekend. And now I’m looking forward to it this weekend.”
Actually, in the 54 years of the Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship, 12 different players have won multiple titles. But the only one to win them back-to-back was Chad Schulze in 1997 and 1998.
“I probably like it because of the group of people associated with it,” said Deraco. “I’m a competitive person. And if you’re a competitive person, you want to go out and beat the other guy. I’m originally from Lebanon County and I always look forward to it.
“I try to pretend I’m younger than I really am,” added Deraco. “I’m not looking forward to the day I can’t compete. I look forward to going out and being the best I can for a weekend.”
“I believe we are healthy,” said tournament director Jimmy Gardner of the Lebanon County Golf Association. “About five or six years ago, I wasn’t sure where our association was going. A lot of people have suggestions but don’t get involved. But a lot of people got back involved and raised a lot of funds. What we don’t have is the young kids. We see very few coming up the ranks.”
The field boasts, in addition to Deraco, eight former champions – Gardner, Andy Gibbons, Dan Brown, Chris Gebhard, Tim Leeper, Mike Schmidt, Jr., Mike Schmidt, Sr. and Bill Massar, Jr. – plus a number of perennial threats. Gibbons, who teamed with Gardner to win the 2012 W.B. Sullivan better-ball title, recently won the Harrisburg District Golf Association’s individual championship, Brown is that association’s three-time reigning player of the year and the spry Leeper is the reigning Lebanon County senior amateur title holder.
“I could go down the list,” said Deraco when asked about the challengers to his crown. “There’s a lot of guys who, when they have their A-plus games going, can be tough.”
“It’d be easier if you said, ‘Give me five (favorites),'” said Gardner. “But the first one who would come to mind would be Andy Gibbons, because the last time we played that course (Fairview) he won. We all know Dan Brown plays extremely well. Rick Troutman is in the field and Chris Gebhard is always there, year in and year out. Don’t forget our defending champ, Tony Deraco, and Cody Kersey is really long. And both the Mike Schmidts (Sr. and Jr.) are in.
“There really isn’t anyone we’re missing,” Gardner continued. “It’s basically the same players we have all the time. I think we have all the quality guys in Lebanon County. But we never focus on the guys we don’t have.”
When Gibbons won the 2007 County Amateur at Fairview, he did it with a two-under par score of 140. Not particularly long, Fairview can be tight and difficult, depending upon the way it is set up. Patience is required for low scores.
“Fairview is one of the best layouts in Lebanon County,” said Deraco. “Fairview sets up pretty good to my eye. I really like Fairview. It’s not going to penalize you too hard and you’ve got to use every club in your bag.
“Actually, I am playing pretty well,” Deraco added. “I play a lot of golf. I have over 50 rounds of golf in this year, and I’ve played Fairview a couple times.”
“We know Fairview is on the shorter side,” said Gardner. “Jim (owner, Jones) usually has those greens pretty fast, and there’s pin placements that can make it pretty tough. Yes, there are holes you can birdie. It’s just a very good course.
“It’s one of the shorter courses in the county,” added Gardner. “Fairview is very fair. You don’t have a lot of out-of-bounds. It’s a comfortable golf course for people to play.”
The popularity of Fairview locally may have contributed to the increased size of the field.
“That’s up from last year,” said Gardner of the field’s size. “It’s probably been five years since we’ve been in the 60s. No, I really don’t know why that is. I don’t know why it’s different. Every tournament I’m in, the fields are down everywhere. I really expected it to be in the high 50s. Maybe people like Fairview a little better.”
55th Annual Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship
Saturday’s Pairings and Tee Times
(at 6,305-yard, par-71 Fairview Golf Course)
|8:00 AM||CHRIS GEBHARD||DAN BROWN||JIM GARDNER|
|8:10 AM||TONY DERACO||TIM LEEPER||CHAD LEEPER||JON HURST|
|8:20 AM||TOM SHERK||JUSTIN ARNT||RYAN WEABER||TOM KINZER|
|8:30 AM||MIKE SCHMIDT SR.||STEVE ANSPACH||ANDY GIBBONS||STEVE ALLWEIN|
|8:40 AM||KERRY WENTLING||RON HEISEY||JEFF HOKE||SKEET WENTLING|
|8:50 AM||RICK TROUTMAN||TOM PLUNKET||STEVE SHERK||TOM METTLEY|
|9:00 AM||JORDAN RHEN||CHRIS PADOVANI||JARED COOK||TREVOR DAVIES|
|9:10 AM||CODY KERSEY||MIKE GRIFFE||JESSE BROWN||DARREN LUTZ|
|9:20 AM||RUSS DITZLER||RUSTY DITZLER||MARK NOVIS||TYLER SHANK|
|9:30 AM||STARTERS TIME||STARTERS TIME||STARTERS TIME||STARTERS TIME|
|9:40 AM||SCOT ADAMS||CHUCK SCHWAB||ERIC BOLTZ||ANDY MAGYAR JR.|
|9:50 AM||TIM SPRINGBORN||SHANE GINGRICH||BILL MASSAR JR.||TYLER MASSAR|
|10:00 AM||TODD WARDEN||BRUCE GWIN||CARL JOHNSON III||ED DETWILLER|
|10:10 AM||JUSTIN BOLTZ||CHRIS BAEZ||BRYAN BATES||KEVIN IRVIN|
|10:20 AM||SKIP KRICK||SCOTT BEHNEY||SASHA NEUFIELD-KREIDER||CALEB GINDER|
|10:30 AM||MIKE SCHMIDT JR.||DAVE HOOVER||DAN BOST||WES PRICE|
|10:40 AM||CHRIS JONOVICH||JAMES PESTA||ED CAUDWILL||RAYMOND BUCKMAN|