BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Sometimes you have to fail before you can succeed.
Sometimes you have to stumble before you can walk the walk.
Sometimes you have to take your lumps before you can score a knockout.
Tyler Massar is the newest Lebanon County amateur champion. Good for him!
But do you know who else it’s good for? Local golf in general.
On a steamy Sunday at the 6,059-yard, par-71 Blue Mountain Golf Course, the 24-year-old Massar came of age and realized his potential in winning the coveted championship of the 60th annual Lebanon County Amateur tournament. Massar fired a final-round, five-under-par 66 for a two-day total of 136, or six-under.
Locked in a heated struggle with playing partners Dan Brown and John DiGiacomo – both former champions – and to a lesser degree with Steve Allwein, who was playing in the group ahead of him, Massar emerged with birdies on two of BM’s three back-nine par-threes. Massar’s total of 136 tied the lowest county-mateur-winning score at Blue Mountain, and tied the lowest winning score in the event overall.
Massar’s margin of victory ended up being three strokes, as Brown, Allwein and DiGiacomo finished in a three-way tie for second. Brown and DiGiacomo carded second-round 68s for their 139 totals, while DiGiacomo, the first-round leader, posted a final-round 70.
Tournament director Justin Arnt finished fifth with a 70-73=143, and Jim Gardner and his 74-70=144 were sixth. Another Massar and a former champion, Bill, Jr. recorded a 74-72=146, while Tony Deraco registered a 76-71=147.
“Last year at a tournament I was playing with Dan Brown and he told me, ‘You had a chance to win, but you have to be agressive,'” said Massar. “That stuck with me. I’ve been aggressive since then. I’ve learned how to win. But first I had to lose.
“I always have confidence at Blue Mountain,” continued Massar. “Driver is the best club in my bag. Finally getting that win, at the match-play event (at Lebanon Country Club in 2017) certainly helped. I was confident.”
“I like Tyler a lot,” said Brown. “I could tell last year that he was tentative. I told him to try and win, instead of trying not to lose.
“I’ll say this about Tyler, I could see it starting to build with his game,” Brown continued. “Over the last year, I knew he was playing well. It’s nice to see a young guy come up. We’re always talking about numbers with this core group of guys. But now maybe we can get some of the younger guys to come out.”
Massar’s score of 33 represented the lowest back-nine score among the contenders.
Engaged in a virtual tie with Brown, DiGiacomo and Allwein, Massar converted short birdies at the 154-yard, par-three 12th hole, the 297-yard, par-four 14th hole and the 157-yard, par-three 16th hole. That put him at six-under for the tournament and established a three-stroke cushion, and all that was left for Massar to do was par out.
“Number 12 has cost me in the past,” said Massar, whose previous best finish at the County Amateur was third. “I hit nine-iron in there and almost made it. But the key for me was 14. I think we were all-square at that point. John (DiGiacomo) unfortunately had a rough go of it on 15. Once I two-putted on 17, with my driver on 18, I felt good.
“It’s exciting,” added Massar. “I just kept at them. It’s a good feeling right now. I never really won anything in college. I told myself to ‘trust it and just stay confident’.”
Massar, who started Sunday’s round a shot behind DiGiacomo, sandwiched a pair of short birdies at numbers four and eight around a 10-foot birdie putt from above the hole on the 354-yard, par-four seventh. His only bogey of the day came at the par-three tenth.
For the two weekend rounds, Massar counted two eagles, eight birdies 20 pars and six bogeys.
“I knew most of the guys in the last two groups could win it,” said Massar. “I tried to go as low as possible. Sixty-six is a good number for me.
“Sixty-eight would’ve been good for me,” added Massar. “When John made back-to-back-to-back birdies (early on the back nine), I knew I had to keep going low.”
Brown made the turn at three-under par, thanks to short birdies at the par-five fourth, the par-four seventh and the par-five eighth. His only stumble of the day came in the form of bogeys at numbers 11 and 12.
“I thought the hole that changed the whole thing was number seven,” said Brown. “I thought it was a two-shot swing. I told him (Massar) that was a big hole.
“It was a really competitive last day,” Brown added. “My goal is to always play as good as I can. It was fun. Overall, I was pretty happy with the way I played.”
Brown scored a tap-in birdie at the par-four 14th, but he could never come close enough to Massar to really turn up the heat on him. Brown deposited two short birdie attempts at numbers 17 and 18 to forge a tie for second.
“It was pretty exciting,” said Brown. “After nine, Tyler and I were three-under and John was at 35. We were all within a shot.
“The back-nine was back and forth,” added Brown. “I thought Tyler played well under pressure. He stepped up when he had to. He finished pretty well.”
DiGiacomo’s three consecutive birdies came at numbers 11, 12 and 13 and got him to five-under for the tournament. But he encountered bogey difficulties at the infamous par-five ‘pole hole’ and the par-three 16th.
DiGiacomo had notched birdies at the par-five fourth and the par-four seventh to make the turn at one-under for the day and three-under for the event.
Allwein counted seven birdies in his Sunday round, but also two bogeys and a debilitating double at the par-five 15th. At one point on the back-nine, Allwein was five-under for the tournament.
Arnt was one-over on the front, and simply couldn’t get anything going on the back. Gardner, on the other hand, made a late surge after carding an even-par 36 on the front.
Meanwhile, Dave Albright won the first flight by posting a 73-77=150 and edging Chris Gebhard through a tiebreaker. The same tiebreaking procedure was employed in Chris Padavoni’s victory over Mat Rowe in the second flight.
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60th Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship
(at 6,059-yard, par-71 Blue Mountain Golf Course)
Tyler Massar 70-66 – 136
Dan Brown 71-68-139
John DiGiacomo 69-70- 139
Steve Allwein 71-68-139
Justin Arnt 70-73 – 143
JIm Gardner 74-70-144
Bill Massar, Jr. 74-72- 146
Tony Deraco 76-71- 147
Jordan Rhen 74-73-147
Blaine Weaver 75-73 – 148
Darren Lutz 76-74 – 150
Dave Albright 73-77 – 150
Chris Gebhard 73-77 – 150
Skeet Wentling 75-76-151
Perry Umlauf 77-75 – 152
Matt Shirk 77-76 – 153
Steve Sherk 78-75 – 153
Ryan Woelfling 77-76 – 153
Blake Reifsnyder 79-77 – 156
Jon Day 79-77 – 156
Kyle Hoffert 78-78 – 156
Kerry Wentling 80-77 – 157
Chris Padovani 82-76 -158
Mat Rowe 78-80 – 158
Tom KIntzer 75-85 – 160
Jon Hurst 81-80 – 161
Eric Boltz 78-83 – 161
Chris Baez 83-79 – 162
Jim Pesta 81-81- 162
Steve O’Neal 85-77 – 162
Chuck Schwab 80-84 – 164
Jeff Hoke 83-82 – 165
Bruce Weaver, Jr. 85-82- 167
Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship
1989 — Joe Faller, 146, MV