BY JEFF FALK
MYERSTOWN – They came from everywhere, and at varying rates. They usually do at the Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners golf tournament.
But Justin Arnt and Scott ‘Skeeter’ Wentling, Jr. never stopped making birdies.
On a beautiful Sunday over Lebanon Valley Golf Club’s 6,136-yard, par-71 test, Wentling and Arnt collaborated on nine birdies to catch two pretty talented groups ahead of them and win the 26th edition of the county better-ball. Arnt-Wentling’s final-round score of 64 gave them a two-day total of 130, which was 12-under par.
Arnt and Wentling won by two strokes over the power group of Jimmy Gardner-Chris Gebhard, who carded a 66-66=132, or ten under. Finishing third was defending champions and first-round leaders Mike Schmidt, Jr.-Pete Parpagene, who followed up an opening 64 with a final-round 69.
Tony Deraco-Greg Behney fired a 66-69=135 to tie for fourth place with Jeff Hoke-Chris Fairbanks and their 67-68=135. Steve Sherk and Matt Cecil were another stroke back at 67-69=136.
For LVGC regulars Wentling and Arnt, it was their first Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners championship, on their home course. Earlier this summer, Arnt and Wentling had combined to win a better-ball event at Royal Oaks.
“We were already down three coming into today, so we knew we had to make birdies,” said Wentling. “I know Jimmy (Gardner) and I know Gebbie (Chris), and they can flat out play. And the same thing goes for Pete (Parpagene) and (Mike) Schmidty. But we don’t play for second. We don’t lay up. I trust what he (Arnt) says and he trusts what I say. We have a good partnership.”
“We’ve been playing pretty good together,” said Arnt. “I tried as hard for him as I did for myself. That’s what teammates do.”
Arnt and Wentling made up at least three shots on Gebhard-Gardner and Schmidt-Parpagene on the final four holes, and their familiarity with Lebanon Valley’s small but tricky greens may have come into play.
Sitting at four-under for the day and nine-under for the tournament, Arnt rolled in a ten-foot birdie putt at the 530-yard, par-five 15th hole. Then Arnt stuck his approach shots close at the par-four 17th and the par-four 18th, and made a pair of short birdie putts.
“We knew we had a shot on the 16th tee,” said Arnt. “We got word about where we were. On the last three holes we thought if we go one, maybe two, under par, we had a shot. We had momentum.”
“You go by word of mouth,” said Wentling. “But you never know. You go with your gut. I hit it (his drive) into the creek on 18. But I thought we had to birdie, so I told Justin to hit driver. When he and I play in a tournament, we don’t play for second.
“Coming into the tournament, I was confident,” Wentling added. “We were both confident. We said, ‘Let’s stay in the hunt and have a good chance on Sunday.’ Knowing the greens is key. They’re not easy to read.”
With Gebhard-Gardner and Schmidt-Parpagene playing well early, Wentling-Arnt’s double bogey at 473-yard, par-four fourth appeared fatal. But they bounced back nicely, with five birdies over the next seven holes.
The highlight was Wentling’s 25-foot birdie at the par-four ninth hole, after Arnt had birdied from eight feet at Number Six and Wentling had birdied from four feet at Number 5. They proceeded to can short birdie attempts on the first two holes on the back-nine, the 335-yard tenth and the 308-yard 11th.
“We both felt pretty good,” said Wentling. “We both had our games. When we double bogeyed four we got down. So we had to birdie (Number) Five. We trust each other. If it’s a four-foot par putt, I know he’s going to make it. And if doesn’t make it, we move on.
“This was important to me because my dad (Scott Wentling, Sr.) was the superintendent here,” Wentling continued. “He passed away almost ten years ago. If I was going to win a county better-ball anywhere, I wanted it to be here. It means more that it’s here.”
“We’re not afraid,” said Arnt. “If he’s going to hit a certain club, neither of us is concerned. We’re doing it as a team. We ham-and-egg it very well.
“Skeet did not play his best yesterday,” Arnt added. “But it was enough to keep us in the tournament.”
With four birdies and an eagle, Gebhard and Gardner made the turn at five-under par and tied with Schmidt-Parpagene for the lead. They got to six-under for the day and 11 under for the event with a birdie at the par-four 11th, but did not make a birdie the rest of the way.
“We played fantastic on the front nine,” said Gardner. “We were making birdies. But after (Number) 11 we stopped making them. It wasn’t what we needed.
“We knew we were tied with Schmidty andParpagene,” Gardner continued. “But sometimes you lose track of the guys not in your group. I don’t play any differently. You’ve got to make birdies. I’m trying to make birdies all the time.”
Schmidt and Parpagene, who entered the last day with a two-shot advantage, got off to a hot start with a birdie on the opening hole and an eagle on the second. Schmidt-Parpagene also eagled the par-five fifth hole and birdied the par-three sixth, but played two-over par golf over their final 12 holes.
Deraco and Behney were one-under on the front and one-under on the back. Hoke-Fairbanks followed up a four-under par score of 32 on the front with a one-over par 36 on the back.
Also on Sunday, Jon Hurst and Chip Sattazahn carded a second-round 66 to win the first flight. The second fight was captured by Dave Albright and Ed Killian, who collected a 77-69=146.
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Lebanon County Better Ball
|Mike Schmidt, Jr and Pete Parpagene||63-66-129||Fairview||2016|
|Don Johnson and Rick Troutman||68-64-132||Fairview||2015|
|Brian Auman and Jim Gardner||64-69-133||Pine Meadows||2014|
|Mike Schmidt Jr. and Ryan Weaber||Iron Valley||2013|
|Bill Massar Jr. and Dave Berkheimer||68-69-137||Monroe Valley||2012|
|No tournament due to flooding||2011|
|Steve Allwein and Mike Schmidt||64-68-132||Royal Oaks||2010|
|Jim Gardner and Brain Auman||60-65-125||Fairview||2009|
|Tom Kintzer and Greg Behney||66-65-131||Blue Mountain||2008|
|Stu Hanford and Don Johnson||64-67-131||Pine Meadows||2007|
|Perry Umlauf and Shawn Cooper||66-66-132||Royal Oaks||2005|
|Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons||62-67-129||Pine Meadows||2004|
|Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons||66-60-126||Fariview||2003|
|Dan Brown and Chad Schulze||61-65-126||Lebanon Valley||2002|
|Bob Wenrich and John Hacunda||70-64-134||Monroe Valley||2000|
|John Digiacomo and Blaine Peffley||64-67-131||Fairview||1999|
|Joe Faller and Phil Faller||65-74-139||Monroe Valley||1998|
|Jim Gardner and Jim Calhoun||68-67-135||Fairview||1997|
|Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz||70-64-134||Fairview||1995|
|Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz||65-68-133||Fairview||1994|
|Mark Ditzler and Tom Sherk||69-68-137||Fairview||1992|
|Jeff Pyles and Jeff Behney||70-68-138||Fairview||1991|
|Rick Troutman and Pete Gebhard||70-65-135||Fairview||1990|
|Joe Faller and Dave Kurtz||66-67-133||Fairview||1989|
|Bob Page and Bill Shoop||68-65-133||Fairview||1988|