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 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.

 He drilled a short putt at the 530-yard, par-five 15th and knocked home a 20-footer at the par-four 16th. Gardner had little more than a tap-in birdie at the par-four 17th, before rolling in a 12-footer at the par-four closing hole.

 Gardner’s final scorecard was graced with all ‘threes’ and ‘fours’, and no ‘fives’ or higher.

 “With the two par-fives on the front, you’re kind of expecting to birdie them,” said Gardner. “Then when I made a birdie at number nine, I thought, “Yeah, that was a good front.’ And when I birided 15, I was thinking ‘Hey this round is going well.’ I was comfortable with the holes coming in.

 “I hit the tee-ball well,” added Gardner. “I hit a lot of greens and I putted fantastic. I made some putts to save pars. I drove the ball, and I hit some good irons and wedges.”

  On the front, Gardner registered short birdies at the par-four second, the par-five fifth and the par-five seventh. His successful birdie attempts at the 426-yard, par-four ninth and the 335-yard, par-four tenth were only slightly longer.

 “This past year, I haven’t been playing well,” said Gardner. “I hadn’t been playing solid. With the expectations coming in, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. Cody (Kersey) and Danny (Brown) are my very good friends and those guys saw I was frustrated. But it just seemed like I made everything. I made an adjustment that felt good, and it worked.”

 In many ways, Gardner’s record-performance out shined the spectacular rounds turned in by Wentling and Allwein. Allwein, for instance, recorded just as many birdies as Gardner, but suffered through four bogeys.

 “I just wanted to keep the bogeys to a minimum,” said Allwein. “I figured keep it in bounds, make a few putts and play tomorrow. I didn’t know Jimmy was going to go crazy. That’s (63) a great round.

 “I’m looking to finally win it,” Allwein added. “But there’s some good golfers here.”

 Allwein’s round was streaky, mostly in a good way. He opened with three consecutive birdies, endured three straight boeys at numbers 11, 12 and 13, and rattled off four birdies in-a-row, from holes 14 through 17.

 “It was kind of streaky,” said Allwein. “But I was playing pretty well all day. It was pretty stress-free, which is not my typical round.

  “I think everything was kind of working,” Allwein continued. “I had three bad tee shots, from 11 through 13. Other than that, I can’t fault any of the shots I hit. It was a good round.”

  With three eagles, Wentling was the early story of Saturday’s opening round. 

 He chipped in for a ‘two’ at the 292-yard, par-four opening hole. He converted a five-foot eagle putt at the 497-yard, par-five fifth hole. And he holed his 70-yard approach shot at the 390-yard, par-four 16th.

 “I’ve never had three eagles in one round,” said Wentling. “It was surreal when it went in on 16. It was a shock on the first hole. I’ve had two in one round before, here. But it was a rare round.

 “You don’t expect it,” Wentling added. “You almost feel guilty when you have two chip-ins in one round.”

 Wentling’s eagle at number five got him to five-under for his round, and his eagle at number 16 got him back to five-under. He also recorded birdies at Numbers Two, Eleven, Twelve and Eighteen.

 “It was great,” said Wentling. “Unfortunately, there were some other guys who also went low. After the eagle at Five, I thought, ‘Wow. This is great. Don’t mess it up.’ Then you get defensive. But you’ve got to keep playing your game.

 “I’m not used to being in this position,” continued Wentling. “I know I’ll shoot higher. I won’t be chipping in eagles tomorrow. I just want to keep it in play.”

 After playing his front-nine at one-over par, Arnt was two-under on the back.

 Rowe’s 70 consisted of two nines of 35.

 Umlauf made the turn at two-under par, before posting a 36 on the back.

 Brown’s round featured a hole-in-one at the 134-yard, par-three 13th. It was the seventh hole-in-one of his career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 61st Annual Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship 

 (at par-71, 6,136-yard Lebanon Valley Golf Course)

Sunday’s Tee Times, with Saturday’s First Round Scores

8 a.m. 

Chris Padovani – 86 

Jim Pesta – 87 

Steve O’Neal – 88 

8:10 a.m. 

Aaron Miller – 82 

Tom Plunket – 83 

Jordan Rhen – 84 

8:20 a.m. 

Ryan Woelfling – 79 

Rusty Ditzler – 79 

Dave Snader – 80 

8:30 a.m. 

Jeff True – 76 

Steve Sherk – 78 

Russ Ditzler – 78 

Dave Albright – 78 

8:40 a.m.

Bill Massar Jr. – 75 

Jeff Hoke – 75 

Jon Day – 75 

Cody Kersey – 76 

8:50 a.m. 

Tony Deraco – 71 

John DiGiacomo – 71 

Darren Lutz – 72 

Skeet Wentling – 73 

9 a.m.

Mat Rowe – 70 

Perry Umlauf – 70 

Dan Brown – 71 

Tyler Massar – 71 

9:10 a.m. 

Jim Gardner – 63 

Kerry Wentling – 66 

Steve Allwein – 66 

Justin Arnt – 70 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship

Past Champions
(Year, Player, Score and Course)
 2018 – Tyler Massar, 136, BM
2017 – Dan Brown, 136, FV
2016 – Jim Gardner, 139, PM
2015 – Jim Gardner, 141, LV
2014 – Dan Brown, 140, RO
2013 – Mike Schmidt, Jr., 136, FV
2012 – Tony Deraco, 136 BMV
2011 – Dan Brown, 142, PM
2010 – Ryan Schneiter, MV
2009 — Tim Leeper, 138, LV
2008 — Mike Schmidt Jr., 139, RO
2007 — Andy Gibbons, 140, FV
2006 — Jim Gardner, 104 BMV (27 holes)
2005 — Bill Massar Jr., 139 PM
2004 — Blaine Peffley, 144 BM
2003 — Chris Gebhard, 137 MV
2002 — Joe Faller, 139, FV
2001 — Jon DiGiacomo, 145, RO
2000 — Blaine Peffley, 143, FV
1999 — Roger Karsnitz, 146, MV
1998 — Chad Schulze, 139, FV
1997 — Chad Schulze, 144, MV
1996 — Chris Gebhard, 141, FV
1995 — Bill Massar Jr., 71, MV (18 holes)
1994 — John Gross, 144, MV
1993 — Mike Schmidt, 143, MV
1992 — Jeff Hoke, 148, MV
1991 — Joe Faller, 147, MV
1990 — Dennis Toomey, 145, MV
1989 — Joe Faller, 146, MV
1988 — Bob Page, 146, MV
1987 — Michael Brooks, 149, MV
1986 — John Gross, 147, MV
1985 — Pete Gebhard, 145, MV
1984 — Bob Page, 139, BM
1983 — Roger Karsnitz, 148, FV
1982 — Pete Gebhard, 72, MV (18 holes)
1981 — Stu Ingraham, 140, LV
1980 — Ben Witter, 141, MV
1979 — Tom Lape, 140, BM
1978 — Stu Ingraham, 144, FV
1977 — Russ Ditzler, 145, PM
1976 — Jim Sherman, 138, LV
1975 — Bob Page, 150, MV
1974 — Kye Golembewski, 141, BM
1973 — George Eisley, 147, FV
1972 — Roger Karsnitz, 144, PM
1971 — William Weik, 142, LV
1970 — Paul Ingraham, 157, MV
1969 — Bob Page, 144, BM
1968 — Ron Will, 147, FV
1967 — Bob Page, 139, PM
1966 — William Weik, 143, LV
1965 — Joseph Spesak, 141, BM
1964 — Tom Donnachie Jr., 149, FV
1963 — William Weik, 149, LCC
1962 — Joseph Spesak, 140, LV
1961 — Tom Donnachie Jr., 144, FV
1960 — Joseph Spesak, 145, LCC
1959 — George Moeschlin Jr., 144, LV
Key: RO — Royal Oaks, FV — Fairview, MV — Monroe Valley, BM — Blue Mountain, LV — Lebanon Valley, PM — Pine Meadows, LCC — Lebanon Country Club

 

 

 

 

 

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