BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – What’s the best way to tame a monster, take away its teeth, figuratively speaking? Kill it with kindness and treat it gently.
But first you’ve got to get familiar with it’s strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing the Lebanon Country Club’s challenging 6,361-yard, par-72 layout was one of the keys to Nate Rader winning the individual title at the 12th annual Lebanon County Scholastic Golf Championships, Monday afternoon. And apparently Rader was not shy about sharing what he knows with his teammates.
Rader made it around LCC’s test in 79 strokes, a total matched by Northern Lebanon’s Carl Johnson III. Rader then converted a seven-foot par putt on the first hole of overtime, the 377-yard par-four, after Johnson missed a longer par-saving attempt.
Neither player could convert considerable drives into GIRs (Greens-in-Regulation), but Rader got up and down.
Solid finishes from Rader’s teammates Evan Dissinger, last year’s champion, who carded an 82, Zach Gristic, who counted 91, and Tim Bomberger, who tossed in a 92, gave Cedar Crest a narrow victory over Northern Lebanon. The Falcons posted a 252 total to edge the Vikings by three shots.
Johnson was joined in the scoring column by fellow Vikes Caleb Ginder and his 79 and Wyatt Beakler and his 94.
Cedar Crest’s Hailey Hartman captured the girls’ championship with an 88.
“I work here, so I play as frequently as possible, any chance I get,” said Rader. “You have to hit it straight off the tee. It’s easy to get in trouble. It’s pretty long too. Greens are quick. Being below the hole is always better than being above it. I think it is an advantage. There’s certain things you’ve got to know to play this course.”
“No (79 isn’t necessarily a good score),” Rader continued. “I’d say anywhere from 77 and below. I thought I was coming in at 76. That seems to be my number out here.”
“It was very close last year as well,” said Cedar Crest head coach Rick Dissinger of a 2012 battle which went to the Vikings. “They (the Vikes) came in with that attitude and played very well again. The scores showed that today, it was very competitive. I told our guys coming in, ‘every shot counts.’
“The depth was the difference,” continued Dissinger. “Zach (Gristic) coming in at 91 was right around his average, but at this place that’s pretty good. Both Evan (Dissinger) and Nate (Rader) kept it together when having bad stretches. Overall, it was our depth and not getting frustrated, those were the keys. ‘Keep your composure and put up the best number possible.'”
Rader put himself in position to win in regulation with some steady play on the back nine. But a bogey at the 300-yard, par-four 17th and a double bogey on the 423-yard, par-four closing hole helped cause bonus golf.
“I knew I had to two-putt on 18 to win,” said Rader, whose brother Galen wore the same crown three years ago. “I just didn’t hit it well. I knew then I was going to a playoff. I knew I just had to get it done in the playoff.
“I felt pressure in the playoff mainly because I sort of gave it up,” added Rader. “But I knew I had it in me.”
“Over the last couple of years he hasn’t realized his own potential,” said Dissnger of Rader. “The fact that he works here, he feels comfortable. He loves to play. He had a great season and a solid season throughout the section. To see him finish this way and end on a positive, it should help him heading into districts (this weekend at Briarwood in York).
“He hits the ball a long way,” Dissinger added. “That was a bomb on the first hole (of the playoff) under pressure. When his short game gets on a roll, it can be fun.”
Rader found the going rough on LCC’s Number Three through Five holes, where he went a combined five-over par. But Rader righted his ship, got one back with a birdie on the par-four eighth hole and then strung to together seven pars to open the back nine.
“My driving was good, but I couldn’t get anything close,” said Rader. “I didn’t hit a green in regulation until (number) eight. I was on a bogey train there for awhile.
“My team’s goal was to get a low score,” Rader continued. “I was happy we could get a team victory and sweep the whole thing.”
“It’s a great event for the kids and the school,” said Dissinger, whose side last won the team championship in 2009. “It’s the biggest event in the county. We don’t get to see these other teams being in a different section. It’s nice for the seniors.
“The kids from Lebanon County don’t get to play here,” continued Dissinger. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids to play it. It’s one of the best courses in the area. As long as they want to keep having it, we’ll keep coming here.”
Elco’s Zach Heckert carded an 88 and Jared Briggs of Palmyra fired an 89.