BY JEFF FALK
NORTH LEBANON – It’s prestige surely took a hit.
But doubt that any asterick will appear on the trophy or be placed next to the champions’ names. And events like golf tournaments are never really about who’s not there.
Besides, eight-under is…well, eight-under.
On a humid Saturday morning at soggy 5,734-yard, par-72 Pine Meadows Golf Course, Mike Potts and Jesse Brown teamed to fire an eight-under 64, to assume the first-round lead of the 30th annual Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners, the Lebanon County Golf Association’s most popular tournament. Using big drivers and pin-point-accurate irons, Brown and Potts didn’t suffer a single bogey in establishing a three-shot lead over the rest of the 26-team field.
No less than four teams are currently tied for second place, in that bunched field. Defending champions Justin Arnt-Skeet Wentling, Tony Deraco and Greg Behney, Tom Kintzer and Josh Kreiser, and Tim Leeper-Chad Leeper all carded five-under par 67s.
Another shot back and tied for sixth are Erick Boltz-Brock Hoover and Tony Ebersole-Jim Murray, who each posted 68s. Kerry Wentling and Jon Day registered a 69 and were the last team to qualify for the championship flight.
The second and final round of the County Better-Ball will be contested Sunday beginning at 7:20 a.m..
While Brown and Potts were lighting up Pine Meadows, miles away across town, the prestigious W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners was staging the quarterfinal matches in its championship flight. A postponement had created a scheduling conflict between the two tournaments.
“I just wish the Sullivan wouldn’t have been at the same time,” said Potts. “I wish those guys (County Better-Ball regulars playing in the Sullivan) were here. In the end, it doesn’t matters. It’s in the books.
“It does matter that they’re not here,” continued Potts. “The only thing that saves me is that eight-under. Put those guys in it and they’re only tied with us.”
“No, I didn’t consider playing in the Sullivan,” said Brown. “This is our (home) course.”
“We were scheduled to play in the Sullivan together, for the first time,” said Skeet Wentling of partner Arnt. “There’s a lot of good teams in the Sullivan. I wanted to see where we fit in when we’re playing well. Once we found out about it (the postponement), I said to Justin, ‘Whatever you want to do.’ He said, ‘We are the defending champs.’ We thought it was in our best interest to support Lebanon County golf.
“It does take a little bit away from this tournament,” Skeet Wentling continued. “Justin and I wanted to play against the best. You want the pressure to see how you would react to it. No one gave us a chance last year.”
“I run this tournament and Greg couldn’t get off (work) for qualifying (at the Sullivan),” said Tony Deraco, the president of the Lebanon County Golf Association. “It made it an easy call. There’s some good teams that are missing, so it hurts the competitiveness of it a little bit. I just appreciate the guys coming out and supporting the county.”
Potts and Brown collected eight birdies over their opening round, and none of their birdie putts were longer than seven feet. Of course, there was also Potts’ holed chip at the par-five tenth that got them to three-under par.
Brown had opened their round with a birdie at the par-five sixth, before Potts chimed in with a bird at the par-four eighth.
“We actually hit it close a lot,” said Potts. “We didn’t make any putts. It could’ve been lower. But we played good, we really did. That’s a great round. Everybody had the same course we did.”
“I think that we know this course helps a lot,” said Brown. “Coming in, we thought five-under would probably be a good number. The goal for tomorrow is the same as today. I like 68. If we shoot 68 from the blue tees, we’re going to win it.”
Brown’s seven-footer at the 290-yard, par-four 14th touched off a stretch of three birdies in five holes for he and Potts. Potts capped off the round with short birds at the 394-yard, par-four first hole and the 471-yard, par-five fifth hole.
“Jesse keeps me in it,” said Potts. “He’s that guy who can get up and down from everywhere. He’s so easy going. For me, that’s really important. He’s always like, ‘That hole’s behind us. Let’s go to the next hole.’
“Tomorrow we want to play like we did today,” Potts added. “It’s golf. Truthfully, I think Jesse will play better tomorrow. He’s solid. It doesn’t matter what you do.”
With Arnt draining four of them, he and Skeet Wentling birdied five of their first seven holes and made the turn at five-under par. But all they could manage over the back nine was even-par – a bogey at number 12 and Wentling’s ten-foot birdie at the 147-yard, par-three 13th.
“I think it could’ve been better,” said S. Wentling. “We both thought it could’ve been better. We left some shots out there. We were going along pretty good. We could’ve been seven-under through seven holes. But then stuff stopped falling.
“I think it’s either going to be 65 or 85 tomorrow,” added Wentling. “We’re going after it. We didn’t come here to lose. There’s a lot of other guys here who want to win it.”
Deraco and Behney rebounded nicely from their bogey at Number One. Seemingly taking turns with them, they recorded six birdies – and ten pars and no more bogeys – over their next 16 holes to reach five-under par.
“We played well over the back,” said Deraco. “The putts just didn’t go in on the front. I told Greg, ‘Let’s shoot at least five- or six-under’. Three shots can change on two holes. We’ve just got to play well tomorrow, and make putts.”
Starting on the back nine, Kintzer and Kreiser went without a birdie over their first six holes. But over their next ten, they went five-under par.
The highlight of Leeper and Leeper’s round was an eagle at the par-five sixth. They also recorded birdies at the par-four first hole, the par-four 14th and the par-five 18th.
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Lebanon County Better Ball
|Justin Arnt and Skeet Wentling||66-64-130||Lebanon Valley||2017|
|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|