BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – Jim Gardner has a healthy respect for history.
He hunbly understands his place in Lebanon County amateur golf lore. And he knows enough not to try and get ahead of it.
On a sticky Saturday morning at the 6,136-yard, par-71 Lebaon Valley Golf Course, during the opening round of the 61st annual Lebanon County Amateur Championship, Gardner fired what is believed to be the lowest score in the history of the event – a blistering eight-under par 63. Gardner’s record-breaking round included nine birdies, eight pars and a lone bogey.
That 63 gave Gardner a three-shot lead over Steve Allwein and Kerry Wentling, who both carded five-under 66s, heading into Sunday’s final round of the championship of local amateur golf. Three other players broke par, tournament director Justin Arnt, Mat Rowe and Perry Umlauf, who all posted one-under scores of 70.
Defending champion Tyler Massar headed a group of four players who registered even-par 71s, one that also included Dan Brown, Tony Deraco and John DiGiacomo.
Currently, Gardner is one of five men to have worn three Lebanon County Amateur crowns. The only local to have won more is the late great Bob Page.
In addition, if Gardner cards a score of 73 or under during Sunday’s second round, he would break the record for the low 36-hole total in the event.
“I don’t get ahead of the game,” said Gardner. “I’ve been playing too long to think this is over. That (winning number four) would be great if that happened. But we’ve got 18 holes to go.
“I’ve always believed there’s more pressure when you’re in the lead,” continued Gardner. “If you don’t get it done, it’s like, ‘What happened?’ It’s easy for people to question if they’ve never been in that position. I’ve got to make birdies. I know I played really well. But I’m only three shots ahead of Steve and Kerry.”
Gardner excelled throughout, but never more than he did over his final four holes. Standing at four-under par, it was actually those four closing birdies that propelled him into the lead.