BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – It was the tortoise who won the race.
Now, the Lebanon County Senior Amateur Golf Championship is no race – far from it. But its winner sure was steady.
Never straying too far from par, Jeff True garnered the 31st championship of local senior golf, on a hot and humid Friday at the 6, 153-yard, par-71 Royal Oaks Golf Course. True corralled his first County Senior Amateur championship by carding a one-over par score of 72, which was a shot lower than playing partner Jeff Hoke’s 73.
Former champion Kerry Wentling finished third with a three-over par 74. A trio of competitors – multiple past winner Tony Deraco, Greg Adams and Dave Albright – finished in a tie for fourth with 75s.
Bill Massar, Jr., another former champ, fired a five-over 76.
John Hacunda matched True’s 72 from Royal Oaks’ front tees and emerged victorious in the event’s Super Senior Division – age 65 and older.
“Yeah, it was pretty steady,” said True. “Par’s always a good score. I missed a two- or three-foot putt for birdie on 15. The putting was a little difficult. The greens were a little slower. I’m used to playing faster greens.
“I like to play golf tournaments,” added True. “I play more tournaments than the average amateur. I play all over the United States.”
True’s scorecard perfectly reflected his play – 15 pars, a birdie and two bogeys. He kept it in the fairway, out of trouble and placed his ball on greens in regulation.
True carded a 36 on the front and a 36 on the back. Repetitiously consistent.
“I played here before, but not in a number of years,” said the 71-year-old True. “I expected to play at 77 or better. The heat was brutal. This was tough for all of us. You can’t cool off.”
True was right at even-par when he chipped in from 25-feet at the 177-yard, par-three fifth hole. He was still under par before failing to get up-and-down at the par-five ninth hole.
True also bogeyed the 405-yard, par-four 14th hole.
“I decided against playing in the super senior division because I don’t have a distance issue,” said True, a Lebanon High graduate. “I ‘m still in pretty good shape, and I can get the ball out there.”
While they had no way of knowing it at the time, True and Hoke were trading shots for the title withing their group.
They were tied before a double bogey at the par-four 14th put Hoke two shots behind True. And while Hoke got one of those back with a bird at the 175-yard, par-three 15th, the best he could do down the stretch was par.
“We didn’t know that,” said True of jockeying with Hoke for the lead. “But when you’re both close to par, there’s a chance here. So you keep an eye on the other guy. You make one mistake and it can hurt you.”
“Jeff Hoke played terrific,” True continued. “His tough hole was number 14, where he lost his ball. Then he comes back and sinks a 40-foot putt for birdie on 13. He went six, two.”
Wentling was very much in contention before absorbing a bogey at the par-four 17th and a double bogey at the par-four 18th. Prior to that four birdies had put him at even-par.
Adams made the turn at one-over par, but managed only a four-over 39 on the back.
Deraco’s round featured a 37 on the front and a 38 on the back.
Despite a triple-bogey seven at 18, Albright scored an even-par 35 on the back, after posting a 40 on the front.
“I played because the schedule fit. That’s the fact of the matter,” said True, who last competed in the County Senior three years ago. “I like to win the harder events. Seriously. That’s the best reason I can give you. They (the Lebanon County Golf Association) always do a good job of putting on an event.
“Low participation is a conundrum,” added True. “I don’t know why more people aren’t playing.”
“It is alarming,” said tournament director Skip Krick. “No matter where you go, golf is down. There’s so many things for people to do, and golf isn’t cheap. A lot of times it’s a matter of timing.
“Like all county events, you want people to enjoy themselves and when the response is what we’ve seen, it’s frustrating,” continued Krick. “You just hope the people who do come out enjoy themselves. We sit in meetings and try to hash things out and try to figure out how we can get a better response. But it is what it is.”
The drop in the size of this year’s field was drastic, down from 43 competitors last season. In June, the Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship experience a similar difficulty, with a field of just 29 players.
It makes one wonder how low the LCGA would be willing to go with its fields.
“We’re kind of kicking it around,” said Krick. “But there’s no quit in us. For those who didn’t participate, I think they missed out.
“Some of it was, number one the heat, number two the cost and number three playing in the better-ball here over the weekend,” Krick added. “It’s a combination of things.”
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31st Annual Lebanon County Senior Amateur Championship
(at 6,135-yard, par-71 Royal Oaks Golf Course)
Jeff True 36-36 – 72
Jeff Hoke 37-36 – 73
Kerry Wentling 36-38 – 74
Dave Albright 40-35 – 75
Tony Deraco 38-37 – 75
Greg Adams 36-39 – 75
Bill Massar, Jr. 39-37 – 76
Tom Plunket 41-38 – 79
Perry Umlauf 39-41 – 80
Todd Kauffman 41-40 -81
Eric Boltz 42-40 – 82
Dave Snader 42-40 – 82
Ed Killian 42-42 – 84
Chuck Schwab 41-43 -84
Ron Heisey 43-41 -84
Todd Kohl 41-47 – 88
Super Seniors (65 and over)
John Hacunda 36-36 – 72
Jim Kersey 38-42 – 80
Skip Krick 43-40 – 83
Bill Fausnaught 49-40 – 89
Lebanon County Senior Amateur Championship