BY JEFF FALK
QUENTIN – Eric Boltz doesn’t always play championship-caliber golf. But when he does, he can play with anyone.
On a hot Friday afternoon at the par-71, 6,305-yard Fairview Golf Course, Boltz put it all together like he rarely had before and the result was his first major golf title, at the 31st annual Lebanon County Senior Amateur Championship. Utilizing a flawless short game and embracing the power of the par, Boltz fired an even-keel 71 to record a two-shot victory over runner-up Tim Leeper and the rest of the 23-player field.
Finshing in third place was former champion Tony Deraco, who counted 74 strokes. Defending champ Jeff True tied Lynn Ebersole for fourth place with a four-over-par 75.
Dave Albright posted a 76, while Kerry Wentling and Logan Sheetz were one stroke further back at 77.
But on the day, no one had anything for Boltz.
The 50-something Boltz became the ninth different player to capture the Lebanon County Amateur championship over the last nine years. For Boltz, a semi-regular at the County Amateur and the County Senior Amateur, it may have been his finest day of competitive golf.
“I guess now I’m part of Lebanon County golf lore,” said Boltz, with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. “It’s been a long time since I’ve won a trophy for anything. I should enjoy this more than I’m going to. I don’t usually play this well.
“I don’t get a chance to win too much,” added Boltz. “So I’m feeling pretty good about it.”
Boltz’s round was a study in consistency. He recorded an amazing 16 pars, one biride and one bogey.
For the most part, Boltz avoided trouble at every turn. He may have caught a break at the 511-yard, par-five 14th hole, where a shot seemingly headed out of bounds hit something and caromed back into the fairway. He ended up saving par.
“Now that I think about it, that was the difference in my round,” said Boltz of 14. “That was the break that really helped me. I need breaks to have a good round.
“I missed a lot of greens, but I got a lot of up-and-ins,” continued Boltz. “I made a lot of three- and four-foot putts. If I don’t, I shoot 78.”
Boltz absorbed his only bogey when he hit his approach shot over the back of the 319-yard, par-four tenth hole’s green. But he came right back at the par-four 11th hole and rolled in a birdie putt from six feet away, to get back to par.
“With these one-day tournaments, anyone in this room could win it,” said Boltz. “Yeah, of course I’m pleased. When someone said the lowest score was a 74, I thought I had a chance. I was playing a little tentative after that. I didn’t want to compound one mistake with another.
“I always chop it around at these tournaments,” Boltz added. “If I get close at the end, I start spraying balls all over the place.”
Though he was never serioulsy in contention, Leeper, the 2012 Lebanon County Senior Amateur champion, finished strong to grab the runner-up spot.
A double-bogey at the 446-yard, par-four third hole put him behind an early eight-ball, and Leeper was four-over par after 11 holes. But he rolled in a short birdie putt at the par-four 12th and another from 12 feet away at par-five 14th.
“No, I really didn’t think I was in contention,” said Leeper, who acknowledged his father Duke Leeper as the person who has had the most influence on his game. “I just played steady. I thought my score would be alright, but I didn’t think I was going to win.
“I just wanted to be competitive, come out and have fun with the guys,” continued Leeper. “I thought the course was in nice shape. It was typical Fairview. I was trying to hit fairways, but I didn’t do that. But I putted really well.”
Deraco counted only five pars in his round of 74, but six birdies, five bogeys and two doubles.
In defense of his title, True was two-under through seven holes. But he played the rest of his round in six-over fashion.
After registering a birdie at the 321-yard, par-four second hole, Ebersole was five-over par from holes three through 11.
Albright made the turn tied with Boltz for the lead, but couldn’t get anything going on the back.
Wentling’s 77 consisted of nines of 40 and 37, while Sheetz’s was made up of 39 and 38 nines.
The super senior division went to the incomparable John Hacunda and his 73.
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Lebanon County Senior Amateur Golf Tournament