A once-a-year tournament? Or just 36 more holes and 150 more swings within a ritualistic grind?
For some, the Lebanon County Amateur Championship is something to ready oneself for, something to prepare for, something to play a practice round for. For others, its simply another event in a long line of summer-time tournaments.
But just like anything in golf, it’s all about the approach.
The 58th edition of the Lebanon County Amateur will go down this weekend, over Pine Meadows’ 6,991-yard, par-72 layout. Forty-three of the locale’s top competitors will be vying for the championship of Lebanon County amateur golf, and the title of ‘ the locale’s best player.’
Two-time winner Jimmy Gardner is the defending champion. Meanwhile, Justin Arnt will be filling Gardner’s old role, in his first stint as the tournament’s director.
“I think it’s an important event, and not just because I’m on the committee,” said Arnt, a 20-something resident from the eastern portion of Lebanon County. “Everyone who enters is competitive. We all want to win, do our best and beat the field. It’s one of the top tournaments on my list, along with the County better-ball and the Sullivan. I do practice to keep my game up for this tournament.”
“Being from Lebanon County, I always enjoy playing our local events,” said Gardner. “I play a lot of Harrisburg district tournaments, but I still have ties to our county events. I don’t play many recreational rounds. I practice at Royal Oaks and play tournaments. But I’ve been playing in the County Amateur, I think, every single year for more than 20 years.”
Last year at Lebanon Valley, Gardner matched his initial County Amateur crown in 2006, with a furious Sunday rally. Gardner overcome a six-shot deficit to first-round leader John DiGiacomo with a 69 for a tw0-day total of 141, which was one under par.
“Johnny DiGiacomo shot a great opening round, a 66 I believe,” said Gardner. “I think I was six shots back. He’s a good player and I didn’t think I’d probably catch him. Probably the expectations weren’t there in the final round.
“I also remember on (hole) 15, we got word the final group was struggling,” continued Gardner. “We didn’t know until that time what was going on. That’s what sticks out to me about last year. I’ve played long enough to see some things. If you look back, everyone’s scores are usually higher on Sunday.”
“I would say it’s not going to affect how I play,” said Arnt, of his gig as tournament director. “When I get on the first tee, I’m focused on golf and the round. Right now, I’m close. I’ve been playing more. I’m close to being able to play well. I feel like I can contend.
“Naturally, I’m going to be a little nervous,” Arnt continued. “Worried if things are going OK, and making sure everyone’s having a good time. But Andy (Signor, Pine Meadows head professional) is pretty much going to run most of it.”
Gardner’s steady approach makes him one of the favorites to capture this year’s title, and Arnt should be among the leaders as well. The field also includes past champions Danny Brown, Bill Massar, Jr., Tony Deraco, Chris Gebhard and Jeff Hoke.
“It’s funny, Andy (Signor) and I were looking at the field,” said Arnt. “There’s a number of repeat champions. But we saw a bunch of new faces too. I don’t know them, but I think they’re younger. And that’s a good thing, because we want more players. I think 43 is a good number. I think the field is going to be very competitive. I think the last time we had it at Pine Meadows there were a few more entries.
“I’m looking at Dan Brown, Greg Adams, Bill Massar, Jr., Tony Deraco, Chris Gebhard, Jimmy Gardner and Tom Kintzer,” added Arnt. “Jesse Brown and Cody Kersey play the majority of their golf there. I’d say there’s ten to twelve golfers who are going to fight for it.”
“The two guys I’d say right out of the gate are Danny Brown and Cody Kersey,” said Gardner. “Danny is just so darn consistent. Cody hits it a mile, and he plays a lot at that course. I know Chris Gebhard, Greg Adams and Bill Massar, Jr. are playing, and Justin Arnt and Deraco. Those guys will be right there.”
“The biggest challenge is keeping the ball in play,” said Arnt. “I think unlike any course we have in the rotation, at Pine Meadows it’s imperative to keep the ball in play. You have to position the ball and stay below the hole. You can’t just get on the tee and bomb away. There’s quite a few holes where you can make a big number. But there’s risk/reward too.”
“The key is to keep it in play,” said Gardner. “At Pine Meadows, driving accuracy is very important. Every course you play at, the short game and driving are going to be important. But at Pine Meadows, it’s driving accuracy.”
The top 13 finishers from the County Amateur will qualify for the Lebanon County Match Play tournament, to be conducted at the Lebanon Country Club, October 8-9.
“To be honest, the golfer who’s going to win is the one who stays mentally with it,” said Arnt. “You’re going to make bogeys. What you want to do is avoid double bogeys. You’ve got to stay in the present, and forget about the past.
“Yeah, I do like our rotation of courses,” Arnt continued. “If you go to Lebanon Valley or Blue Mountain, they’re not very big courses, so it requires being sharp with your short game. At Pine Meadows or Royal Oaks, you’re almost using every club in your bag. I feel like each course kind of tests something different, which is why you see different winners.”
“I like the rotation,” said Gardner. “It’s pretty good for everyone. Some of them fit your eye. Some guys like shorter courses more than bigger courses. Some guys putt better. Sometimes we wonder if we didn’t have the county amateur at different courses if we’d get more players. There are certain courses which bring out larger fields.”
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2016 Lebanon County Men’s Amateur Golf Championship
Pine Meadows Golf Course
Saturday Starting Tee Times
|Jim Gardner||Chris Gebhard||Dan Brown||Greg Adams|
|Mat Rowe||Zach Layser||Grant Harris||Carl Johnson|
|Justin Arnt||Tony Deraco||Jon Hurst||Jon Day|
|Skeet Wentling||Kerry Wentling||Perry Umlauf||Chad Leeper|
|Tom Plunket||Jeff Hoke||Sam Shrefler||Bill Massar Jr|
|Ben Caporaletti||Blaine Weaver||Chris Jonovich||Sean Behney|
|Dave Albright||Doug Swanson||Bruce Weaver||Jim Pesta|
|Steve Anspach||Eric Boltz||Mike Potts||Chuck Schwab|
|Tom Kintzer||Dave Winters||Scot Adams||Mark Novis|
|Jesse Brown||Cody Kersey||Darren Lutz||Jordan Rhen|
|Steve Allwein||Nate Wentling||John DiGiacomo|