BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – The sun was bright.
The air was thin.
The greens were receptive.
The course was familiar.
And the field was strong.
It was the ideal conditions for competitive, late-summer golf. It was also the perfect setting for Dave Brown’s first individual win.
On a picturesque Friday at Royal Oaks’ 6,153-yard, par-71 test, the 53-year-old Brown fired an even-par score to edge a star-studded contingent and capture the championship of the 28th annual Lebanon County Senior Amateur golf tournament. Brown finished strong, with a one-under par 34 on the closing nine, which included back-to-back-back birdies in the middle of the back.
At one point, it appeared a two-, or even a three-way playoff might be needed to decide the championship. But Brown, playing in the final group of the day, had his own ideas.
His 71 was the only score that wasn’t over par, and it was low enough to nudge a group of three runners-up at one-over 72, one that included defending champion Kerry Wentling, former champion Billy Massar, Jr. and playing partner Greg Adams. Finishing in a tie for fifth-place with 75s were Logan Sheetz, Jerry Succi, Chuck Schwab, Logan Sheetz, Robert Grubb, Dave Albright and Larry Wiack.
Jon Hurst and Ron Harris carded five-over par 76s.
Brown got the job done with three birdies, three bogeys and 12 pars. He became the event’s sixth different winner over the last six years.
“I wasn’t all that nervous,” said Brown, who had enjoyed past success as a partner in better-ball events. “I thought I might be a little more nervous. I’m pretty competitive. I don’t play golf for fun. I play it because it’s a challenge.
“I’ve always been competitive,” continued Brown. “Golf gives you a chance to stay connected to that competitive side. You either play good golf or it costs you money. You’re playing against guys who are really good.”
Engaged in a spirited match with Adams, the turning point for Brown came at the numbers 12-13-14 stretch of holes. Hovering at a modest two-over par after a bogey at the par-three 11th, Brown went birdie-birdie-birdie to assume a lead he would never relinquish.
First, he drained a four-footer at the 393-yard, par-four 12th. Then he settled for a tap-in birdie at the par-five 13th, after misfiring on a 15-foot eagle attempt. And finally Brown drained a 20-foot birdie putt at the 405-yard, par-four 14th.
Brown missed a five-foot birdie putt at the par-four 17th that would’ve clinched the win. And with the rest of the 40-player field struggling to gain ground, Brown’s bogey at the par-four closing hole turned out to be meaningless.
“I three-jacked it at number 11, but then I got it going,” said Brown. “When I missed that birdie putt on 17, I was concerned. I thought 70 was good, but I didn’t think 71 was any good. Greg’s (Adams) a very good player, and he and I were kind of back-and-forth all day.
“I thought if I could’ve made one on 17 I would’ve won it,” Brown added. “You kind of get a feel for where you’re at. I thought if someone didn’t do anything unconscious, I’d be OK. There’s some good players. I knew it was probably close.”
Brown was two shots down to the leaders when he made the turn, thanks in part to bogeys at the par-four second and the par-four sixth. He offset one of those by rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt at the 403-yard, par-four fourth hole.
“The greens were real soft. You didn’t get a lot of run out of it, but you could be aggressive,” said Brown, whose younger brother Dan is one of the top amateur players in the central Pennsylvania region. “It was a little hard to gauge at the beginning. I think I have this (Royal Oaks) listed as my regular course. It played well, but we stirred it everywhere. The wind was a little tricky at times. It was definitely a factor.
“Actually, Dan and I have been hanging out a lot,” Brown added. “We’ve been hitting balls and practicing some together. He’s a very good teacher. He’s a good student of the game. It was kind of fun that he could be here.”
Wentling’s title defense got off on the right foot, with three great strikes and an eagle at the 534-yard, par-five first hole. He got it to three-under par with a birdie at the par-five seventh hole, before enduring a double bogey at the par-five ninth.
“I got off to a really good start,” said Wentling, who won last year’s senior amateur on his first try, on his home course of Lebanon Valley. “I just wanted to make putts and stay safe. I was hitting greens and hitting fairways.
“I was three-under after eight and I felt good,” Wentling added. “I hit nine and came back to earth. I hit it into the trees and had to take a double-bogey.”
Experiencing ‘the yips’, Wentling missed a pair of two-foot par putts while taking bogeys at the par-three 11th and the par-three 13th. He simply couldn’t make them up down the stretch.
“I’m very competitive,” Wentling said. “I kind of wanted to have a playoff. I thought I was going to get third or fourth. I knew Billy (Massar) would be up there.
“I play here quite a bit, so I feel comfortable here,” added Wentling. “I felt a little pressure. But it was pressure I put on myself.”
With four birdies, five bogeys and nine pars, Massar’s round was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Massar, who won the 2013 Lebanon County senior amateur crown at Blue Mountain in 2013, went bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey from holes 13 through 17.
In his personal duel with Brown, Adams got two shots up with consecutive birdies at the par-five seventh and the par-three eighth. Thanks to birdies at the par-five 13th and the par-four 16th, he was still within striking distance of the lead with two holes to play.
The ‘super senior’ portion of the event went to Bob Zechman and his 77, while Curt Bordner was the runner-up and tournament director Skip Krick third.
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28th Annual Lebanon County Senior Amateur Championship
(at 6,153-yard, par-71 Royal Oaks Golf Course)
DAVE BROWN 37 34 71 1
KERRY WENTLING 35 37 72 2
BILL MASSAR JR. 35 37 72 3
GREG ADAMS 35 37 72 4
GREG HERR 38 37 75 5
CHUCK SCHWAB 36 39 75 6
JERRY SUCCI 39 36 75 7
DAVE ALBRIGHT 37 38 75 8
LARRY WIACEK 38 37 75 9
LOGAN SHEETZ 39 36 75 10
ROBERT GRUBB 39 36 75 11
RON HARRIS 38 38 76 12
JON HURST 36 40 76 13
TONY DERACO 38 39 77 14
RANDY KOHR 38 39 77 15
DAVE MEYER 40 37 77 16
RON HEISEY 40 38 78 17
PERRY UMLAUF 39 39 78 18
DON JOHNSON 40 39 79 19
TOM METTLEY 40 39 79 20
DAVE SNADER 39 41 80 21
DOUG WRIGHT 41 40 81 22
TODD KOHL 42 39 81 23
LYNN EBERSOLE 45 37 82 24
GREG LONGENECKER 40 42 82 25
TOM PLUNKETT 40 42 82 26
SCOTT BEHNEY 40 44 84 27
KEVIN OWLES 42 42 84 28
BOB SIEGRIST 42 42 84 29
BILL KISSINGER 48 39 87 30
SCOTT HARRIS 45 44 89 31
SCOT BROWN 43 47 90 32
RAYMOND BUCKMAN 42 50 92 33
BOB ZECHMAN 40 37 77 1
CURT BORDNER 37 42 79 2
SKIP KRICK 40 42 82 3
DAVE AUSBAND 43 39 82 4
KEN SHANK 42 40 82 5
DAVE SUERETH 41 42 83 6
PAUL DONECKER 45 41 86 7
JIM KERSEY 44 50 94 8
Lebanon County Senior Amateur Golf Tournament