LEBANON – Andy Gibbons did his thing early. Cody Kersey got it together late.
But all either really care about is arriving on time today.
Gibbons and Kersey both shot one-under par 70s during Saturday’s opening round of the 57th annual Lebanon County Amateur Golf championships, being contested on Royal Oaks’ 6,747-yard test. Gibbons, who played in the second foursome off, parlayed two eagles and two birdies into a four-under par 32 on the front, while Kersey, playing in the next-to-last group of the day, was one-under par over his last seven holes.
The co-leaders will enjoy a two-shot advantage over Dan Brown and Steve Anspach, who fired one-over 72s, heading into today’s second and final round. Another shot back are a pair of relative unknowns Tyler Shank and Matt Rowe, who both carded 73s.
Sitting at three-over par 74, and well within striking distance. is defending champion Mike Schmidt, Jr. Past champ Chris Gebhard and Steve Allwein counted 75 strokes.
Action will return to Royal Oaks on Sunday morning, with a final group that will include Gibbons, Kersey, Brown and Anspach teeing it up at 10:10 a.m..
“I would’ve liked to shoot three or four under,” said Kersey. “That was my goal today. You can lose it on the first day, but you can’t win it on the first day.
“Honestly, I play here (Royal Oaks) once a year,” Kersey continued. “I chipped the ball well. I actually didn’t hit the ball well on the front nine. I thought the scores would be lower. I thought there was a lot more birdies out there.”
Kersey was sitting at even par entering the 413-yard, par-four 12th hole. He rolled in a ten-foot birdie there, and then followed it up with a chip-to-tap birdie at the par-five 13th.
The former Little Dutchman, now 27-year-old big-hitter Kersey, has two County Amateur runner-up finishes on his resume.
“I feel like I hit the ball OK,” said Kersey. “I didn’t feel like I hit it great. Two of my bogeys were stupid.
“I thought the course was in good shape,” added Kersey. “The pin placements weren’t anything hard. And the greens were in good shape. In all honesty, I thought we’d have more people.”
Starting his day two hours later than Gibbons, Kersey birdied the par-five opening hole. He made the turn at one under, thanks to a 15-foot birdie at the 558-yard, par-five seventh and a two-putt birdie at the par-five ninth.
He’s a really good golfer,” said Kersey of Gibbons. “I don’t think anything gets to him. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him real mad, or any time real happy.
“I love playing in it (County Amateur) each year (11 of 12),” Kersey continued. “I like all the guys. I would’ve liked to have won one. I wish more people would get into it. It is what it is. I do feel we get the best players in the county. But who cares what you shoot?”
Gibbons quickly got to three-under par with a 15-foot birdie on number one, and by flying a 119-yard approach shot into the par-four second hole’s cup for an eagle. His second eagle on the front came at number seven, and his birdie at nine gave him a 32 for the front.
“I got off to a great start,” said Gibbons who finished second at a Harrisburg District Golf Association event at Lebanon Country Club in the afternoon. “Coming off the front four-under, I thought to myself, ‘Hey, I’m playing well. Let’s keep it going.’ It could’ve been two better, but being tied for the lead I’m satisfied.
“I’ve been playing pretty well,” continued Gibbons. “I wasn’t sure what would be coming out of the putter, but I’ve been striking the ball well. It’s nice not to have to chase somebody.”
Gibbons gave three back to par over his second-nine ride. Bogeys at par-three 11th, par-four 12th and the 195-yard, par-three 15th brought him back to the pack.
“It’s hard to keep it going,” said Gibbons. “People have a tendency to come back to what they normally shoot. I got off to a hot start and cooled off.
“I do like Royal Oaks,” added Gibbons. “It’s a great layout. I remember when it (County Amateur) was rotated between Fairview and Monroe Valley, it consistently got more players. But maybe golf is down in general. When you get a little tougher places, not as many people want to play. I understand being fair to all the courses. But some courses bring out more players than others.”
Seemingly always in County Amateur contention, Gibbons made the final group in each of five straight years between 2007 and 2011. But today will mark the first time since he won it in 2007 that he began the second round with the lead.
“I always enjoy playing in the Lebanon County Amateur Championship,” said Gibbons. “It brings out the best players. Everyone wants to be county champion. I’ve been able to play well enough to get into the final group, but it’s the first time since ’07 that I’ve been in the lead. I’m just glad I don’t have to chase people down.”
Anspach played consistently enough to overcome a pair of double bogeys – at the par-five seventh and the par-four tenth. He did it with five birdies and 11 pars.
Anspach was four under over his eight closing holes.
Shank hit his irons well, but couldn’t get his putter working and and posted nines of 37-36. Rowe was even on the front and two over on the back.