BY JEFF FALK
What makes golf such an unforgiving sport is that its contestants have little or no control over their opponents.
Sometimes when you take care of business, it’s good enough. And sometimes when you take care of business, it isn’t.
Local teams Andy Gibbons-Jim Gardner and Chris Gebhard-Jeff Daniels experienced both extremes of that harsh spectrum during Saturday’s action at the 67th edition of the W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners event, contested on the Lebanon Country Club’s par-72, 6,532-yard layout.
Gibbons and Gardner were on top of their games during their 4&2 triumph over Jamie McCallum and Tim Heinly. For their part, Gebhard and Daniels also played well, but fell 2&1 to red-hot Brady Goodling and Kyle Deisher.
Gardner-Gibbons’ victory earned them a semifinal date with Steve Walton and Marc Poccia, who upended Lance Oberparleiter and Dan Otto. With Gebhard and Daniels eliminated from championship contention, it will be Goodling and Deisher who will take on Brain Golembiewski and Casey Blankebiller, 3&2 winners over Paul Bickford and Steve Passalaqua, in the other semi.
Those semifinal matches will tee off at 8:24 and 8:33 a.m., while the final match of the championship flight is expected to go off around 2 p.m..
“It’s hard when you play a good team, make some good birdies and halve the holes,” said Gebhard, an LCC member. “We didn’t lose. We got beat. That’s for sure.”
“All the partners I play with carry me,” said Gardner, a two-time former Sullivan champion with Jim Calhoun. “But today we both played solid, and we contributed equally.”
After dismissing William Chase and Phil D’Amato 4&3 in their morning opener, Gibbons-Gardner were all square with McCallum-Heinly through five holes in the afternoon. But the Lebanon Countians won four of the next seven holes to open a four-up advantage.
“They almost seemed like they were ready to concede,” said Gardner of McCallum and Heinly. “When you start getting four up, you feel pretty confident. Plus Andy and I were playing well. We always talk about wanting to hit greens together.”
“If we can play like this tomorrow we’ll be OK,” said Gibbons. “We played well. We were probably six or seven-under and I think we only had one bogey all day.”
After losing their first hole at the par-five, 15th, Gibbons and Gardner closed out their afternoon match when the former sank a 20-foot, down-hill birdie at the 372-yard, par-four 16th. Gibbons had jumped-started his duo with a seven-foot birdie at the par-four sixth and a ten-foot eagle at the par-five seventh.
With that two-hole advantage in their back pockets, Gardner and Gibbons won numbers 11 and 12 with pars.
“It’s special to me for obvious reasons,” said Gardner of the Sullivan. “Just being lucky enough to win it twice. It’s one of the bigger ones (tournaments) and being from around here makes it special. But I know when I’m out there playing, I don’t think about representing Lebanon County.”
“It’s very difficult to win,” said Gibbons, who’s in his third year of teaming with Gardner in the Sullivan. “It’s a tournament where you know you’re going to get fields that are better and stronger than most better-balls.
“In the past, we (he and Gardner) would shoot 70 or 71 in qualifying and then win our flight,” Gibbons added. “When you’re in a flight you don’t care as much as you do when you’re in match play. Some players are in it to make the cut, and others are in it to win it.”
At times, Gebhard and Daniels seemed frustrated by the lights-out play of Goodling and Deisher – especially Goodling, a 19-year-old resident of Manheim and LCC member, who recently won the club’s championship. Goodling closed out Gebhard and Daniels on the 306-yard, par-four 17th when he drove the green over some tall menacing trees, and then calmly sank a 35-foot eagle putt.
A hole earlier, Goodling had given his team a one-up lead with a birdie.
“We played really well,” said Gebhard. “And they played really well. And they made a couple of putts.”
Gebhard had squared the match with a ten-foot birdie at the par-five 15th. And it was Gebhard who had given his team an early one-up advantage with a four-foot ‘chicken’ at the par-five second.
But Goodling and Daniels won the 398-yard, par-four fourth with a birdie, and then took a one-up edge when their eagle at the par-five seventh trumped Gebhard and Daniels’ birdie. The teams halved the eighth, ninth and tenth holes with birdies,
“Yeah, there was a lot of stuff going on,” said Gebhard. “We were seven-under for 17 holes.”
But in those same 17 holes, Goodling and Deisher were nine-under par.
(16) Dan Ott-Lance Oberparleiter def. (1) Danny McCreesh-Anthony Campanile, 4&3
(15) Brady Goodling-Kyle Deisher def. (2)Bill Cregar-Billy Cregar, 2&1
(3) Brian Golembiewski-Casey Blankenbiller def. (14) Matt Leaman-Jon Bensing, 4&3
(4) Jim Gardner-Andy Gibbons def. (13) William Chase-Phil D’Amato, 4&3
(5) Jamie McCallum-Tim Heinly def. (12) Jared Palubinski-Rod James, 4&3
(6) Paul Bickford-Steve Passalaqua def. (11) Ryan Beck-Mike McComb, 2&1
(7) Chris Gebhard-Jeff Daniels def. (10) Doug Hallman-Shane Behmer, 6&6
(8) Steve Walton-Maro Poccia def. (9 )Joe Russo-Joey Russo, 4&3
Walton-Poccia def. Ott-Oberparleiter, 1-up
Gardner-Gibbons def. McCallum-Heinly, 4&3
Goodling-Deisher def. Gebhard-Daniels, 2&1
Golembiewski-Blankenbiller def. Bickford-Passalaqua, 3&2
Walton-Poccia vs. Gardner-Gibbons, 8:24 a.m.
Golembiewski-Blankenbiller vs. Goodling-Deisher, 8:33 a.m.
Winners tee-off at 2 p.m.
Schmidt Jr.-Schmidt 70-68-138
Kline Jr.-Gunkle 71-67-138
Massar Jr.-Hoke 70-71-141
Wade II-Stover 75-73-148