BY JEFF FALK
REXMONT – In June, the death of his maternal grandmother provided him with the inspiration to win the Lebanon County Amateur golf championship. But apparently what turned 2013 into ‘The Summer of Mike Schmidt, Jr.” was his ability to pick a partner.
On Sunday afternoon, the chemistry between Schmidt and teammate Ryan Weaber was apparent, as the two teamed to win the 22nd annual Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners golf tournament, contested on Iron Valley’s 6,542-yard, par-72 layout. Schmidt, who earlier in the summer had made best friend Farren his new wife and life partner, and Weaber defeated Chris Gebhard and Steve Allwein in a three-hole playoff for the crown.
After the two teams had completed 36 holes with identical totals of 141, or three-under par, Schmidt and Weaber came up with all the big shots during ‘bonus golf’. The team of Jimmy Gardner and Brian Auman finished third with a 70-73=143 total, or one-under par.
Jesse Brown and Darren Lutz fired an even-par total of 70-74=144 to take fourth place. Fifth went to Tony Deraco and Tim Leeper, who carded a 74-74=148, and Brock Hoover and Jeff Marks, who collected a 71-77=148.
“This summer I married my best friend Farren,” said Schmidt. “Of all my summer stuff, that was the best part. She is very supportive of me playing, and I’ve certainly played pretty good golf this summer. I’d be foolish to think she didn’t have something to do with it.”
“We’ve played a lot of golf together,” said Weaber of his partner. “The first time we played in this event we finished third, and the second time we finished second. I said to him, ‘There’s only one place left to go.’ Every time we go out to play, we have a good time. I can’t ask for a better partner. He’s the county amateur champ. If you can pick your partner, he’s the one to pick.”
Ultimately, there were three shots which decided the three-hole playoff, and the tournament.
First, Allwein left a putt on the lip at the par-four Number One that would’ve given his team a one-shot edge. Then, Weaber rolled in a 30-foot birdie on the 342-yard, par-four second hole to give his side a one-stroke advantage.
Schmidt all but wrapped up the title when he stuck his second shot – a six-iron from 163 yards out – at the 472-yard, par-five third hole to within 15 feet of the flag.
“Stevie hit a great putt there,” said Schmidt. “I thought he made it. That was a pretty good shot on Three. When I hit it, it was like ‘that should just about do it.'”
“The putt I left an inch short on the first hole was crushing,” said Allwein. “We were figuring we had to make two birdies out of the three holes in the playoff to have a chance. We had a lot of opportunities, but it was a good battle.”
“If we were playing match play,” said Gebhard of Schmidt’s second shot on the third and final playoff hole, “I definitely would’ve conceded that.”
Unofficially, the playoff between Schmidt-Weaber and Gebhard-Allwein may have begun with two holes remaining in regulation. Playing in different groups and with no one in the entire 28-team field really distinguishing themselves, both teams rolled in key eagle putts.
Weaber’s was an eight-footer from below the hole, while Allwein ran in a 25-footer with a slight left-to-right break.
“I knew when we were at two-over, we needed to be better,” said Schmidt. “Being two-over with six to play, the writing is on the wall. And the only way to go is down.”
“We kind of thought we were in a good spot,” said Gebhard. “After Steve made that eagle at 16, I thought if we made one more birdie we’d win. We didn’t know where we were (in relation to the lead), but we knew what the scores were.”
After making the turn at even par, Schmidt and Weaber put themselves into a hole with bogeys at the par-four tenth hole and the par-three 12th. But Schmidt got one of those back when he two-putted for birdie at the 542-yard, par-five 15th.
“I am ridiculously competitive,” said Schmidt. “I don’t mind getting beat, but I hate to lose. The difference is when another team is playing exceptionally well and you get beat. I don’t like losing because we didn’t concentrate or didn’t play well.
“I play all my golf in the county because it’s fun down here,” Schmidt continued. “I was born and raised in this county. I’ve been accused of being from Lebanon County, in a good way and a bad way.”
Weaber certainly did his part with a six-foot birdie at the par-five third hole and a 15-foot bird at the par-five seventh hole. But he and Schmidt suffered bogeys at the par-three fifth hole and the par-four sixth hole.
“Coming out here to do this is great,” said Schmidt. “It’s fun to see these guys. They have a good time. They enjoy.”
Gebhard-Allwein got to even-par for the day and two-under for the tournament, when Gebhard rolled in a short birdie putt at the 340-yard, par-four 11th hole. But both players missed the green at the par-four 15th hole, and neither could get up and down.
“It’s a challenging golf course,” said Gebhard. “It’s a different tournament than if you play it at Lebanon Valley. You have to hit it good here to have a chance to make a ten-footer.”
“It benefits good golfers,” said Allwein. “This is definitely the hardest test of golf in the county.”
With short birdie putts, Gebhard-Allwein took full advantage of Iron Valley’s two par-fives on the front. But the duo also counted three bogeys, and made the turn at one-over par.
“Oh, no,” said Gebhard when asked to gauge his level of disappointment. “Hey, you just try to do the best you can. I don’t do it for a living. Driving in (from the playoff), there was some frustration. But we’re not upset any more.”
Lebanon County Better Ball Champions
|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|