BY JEFF FALK
It’s a year. A whole year. A good year.
But now Tyler Massar’s time is up. That doesn’t mean his time can’t be extended or that that year can’t be the foundation for the next. But there will never be another year quite like it.
In some ways, Massar’s new year will begin on Saturday morning at Lebanon Valley golf course’s 6,136-yard, par-71 layout, when he opens the defense of his Lebanon County Amateur championship. Last year at Blue Mountain in Fredericksburg, Massar posted a blistering winning total of 136, or six-under par.
A star-studded field of local competitors will challenge Massar for his title, when the 61st edition of the championship of local amateur golf unfolds in Myerstown. The 36-hole event will conclude with a final round on Sunday morning.
“Following in my uncle Billy’s (Massar) footsteps, it’s been a great year,” said Massar. “I got a lot of ‘congrats’ when people found out about it. It was awesome. It’s one of only two tournaments I play as an individual. I like to play because it’s important. It brings out the best in me. I have to focus. I look forward to it every year.”
“Last year’s Amateur was very similar to this year’s,” said tournament director Justin Arnt. “We’ve got a quality field with big names and past champions. I remember Tyler playing a fantastic round of golf, and Blue Mountain playing tough. There were good players at the top and it was very competitive.
“I think the same will hold true this year,” added Arnt. “Both golf courses are short with small greens, and it’s all about the placement of your ball. At some holes you’ve got to play defensive.”
In many ways, last year’s Lebanon County Amateur was Massar’s coming-out party. To become the best, he beat the finest players in the county by playing well.
“I gained a lot of great experience,” said Massar of his two days in Fredericksburg. “The first day I didn’t play great, but I salvaged the round. It was very competitive golf. Sometimes you just have to trust your game. Thankfully, it went my way.
“My personal expectations are pretty high,” continued Massar. “Blue Mountain really suited my game, but Lebanon Valley is a little different. It brings a lot of players into the championship talk. I’ve been playing well and my confidence is pretty high. You’ve just got to take it hole-by-hole and control what you can control. Hopefully, at the end I’ll have a chance.”
Many of the players who pushed Massar are back again this year.
Jimmy Gardner and Dan Brown had accounted for the four previous County Amateur titles before Massar broke through in 2018. Included among the other contenders are past champions Chris Gebhard, Tony Deraco, John DiGiacomo, Jeff Hoke and ‘Uncle Billy’.
There is also a strong contingent of competitors who call Lebanon Valley home lurking.
“I think numbers (of entries) have been down, but the quality of players is still there,” said Massar. “All the guys who play at Lebanon Valley have a big advantage. The greens are going to be quick and you’ve got to keep it in play. It’s going to be competitive.