FREDERICKSBURG – Should anyone not believe that Chris Gehbard is still adjusting to the hectic lifestyle of a Pennsylvania senator, one only needs to look as far as Pine Meadows Golf Course and the 63rd annual Lebanon County Amateur for proof.
Either Gebhard is experiencing difficulties leaving his former life behind or he may have underestimated his love for the game of golf.
On a sticky Saturday, over Pine Meadows’ 6,037-yard, par-72 layout, Gebhard became the first Pennsylvania legislature to ever lead the county amateur when he fired a two-over par score of 74, in the first round of the annual 36-hole event. It was a surprise to no one, except for maybe Gebhard.
Gebhard’s round of two birdies, four bogeys and 12 pars was good enough for a one-shot edge over opening-round playing partner Craig Kliewer, who carded a three-over 75. Another shot back are a group of three players made up of defending champion Justin Arnt, Mat Rowe and Luke Spangler.
Sitting at 77, or five-over par, are John DiGiacomo, Dave Albright and Ben Feeman. Steve Allwein, Bill Massar, Jr. and Matt Anderson all posted scores of 78.
Sunday’s second and final round of the 63rd Annual Lebanon County Amateur will decide the 2021 championship of local golf.
Gebhard, who’s about three weeks removed from being sworn in as the new senator from Pennsylvania’s 48th District, wasn’t even sure he’d be competing in the Lebanon County Amateur when hearings on the state budget went late into Friday night. Before he embarked on his new and demanding career, Gebhard warned that things in his personal life – like golf – would be curtailed.
“I didn’t know I was playing until 10:45 last night (Friday),” said Gebhard. “We’ve been trying to get the budget done, and it’s very fluid. Not until ten o’clock last night did I think I was going to play. Initially, I told (tournament director Arnt) Justin I was going to have to withdraw, but it turned out great.
“One of the things I knew I was going to have to sacrifice in my new position was my personal aspirations, and golf was one of them,” added Gebhard. “I just had fun. It wasn’t very serious. Where the event falls on the calendar will certainly make it a challenge for me to play. There will be times when I may have to withdraw.”
Gebhard rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the difficult 321-yard, par-four 16th hole to assume sole ownership of the first-round lead. A bogey at the 166-yard, par-three 13th hole had left Gebhard at three-over par.
“It was just a good example of when you have very little expectations, there’s not a lot of pressure,” said Gebhard, who has won two previous Lebanon County Amateur crowns and finished as the tournament’s runner-up six times. “When you don’t expect a lot, things can turn out pretty well. Honestly, I had zero expectations.
“I hadn’t played much golf the entire year,” continued Gebhard. “I work 60 hours a week. I haven’t practiced, I haven’t played. In all honesty, I’m going into tomorrow with the same approach.”
Gebhard bogeyed Pine Meadows’ par-four third hole, but got that shot back by birdieing the par-five fifth hole. But thanks to bogeys at Numbers Six and Seven, he made the turn at two-over par.
“I am sad and disappointed the way this event has developed over the years,” said Gebhard. “Outside of the Sullivan (Better-Ball-of-Partners at the Lebanon Country Club), it used to be the premiere golf event in Lebanon County. It’s lost a lot of prestige, and it’s sad. It doesn’t resonate with the local players.
“I’ve always been committed to the Lebanon County Golf Association,” Gebhard added. “I always though it was important.”
Kliewer, who finished third at last year’s county amateur, also registered a key late birdie – a ten-footer at the 172-yard, par-three 17th hole – to put himself firmly in contention. At that time, Kliewer was positioned at four-over par, courtesy of a bogey at Number 13.
“I have expectations every time I go out,” said Kliewer. “I already have a win under my belt this season, but I really haven’t played well since. I work on my game a lot. If I’m not going to compete, I’m not going to play.
“The course played tough,” Kliewer added. “It was firm, but you’ve got to learn to play it. I’m encouraged. I’m right in the mix. It’s where I wanted to be, but tomorrow is a different day.”
Kliewer got off to a rough start, recording bogeys on each of his first four holes. But back-to-back, four-foot birdies at the par-five fifth and the par-five sixth placed him in the proper frame of mind.
“Considering the start I had, I have to be happy with the way I finished,” said Kliewer. “When you make two birdies in-a-row, you’re back in the game. My game has always been to make as many pars as I can and throw a birdie in here or there.”
With five birdies, four bogeys, a double bogey, a triple bogey and seven pars, Arnt’s round was a bit of a roller coaster. But he did play the back-nine to a total of 37 or one-over par.
Rowe, who led after the first round of the 2017 Lebanon County Amateur at Fairview, was at two-over par after registering birdies at the 349-yard par-four 11th hole and the par-three 13th hole. But he finished bogey-bogey.
“I was nervous on the first tee of the second day, just because of how much I play,” said Rowe of 2017. “I knew it would be tough to back up that good round. I only have a couple of those rounds a year, and I knew there were good players behind me. I want more birdies tomorrow. But I need to make it less stressful, and take pars when I get them.”
A triple bogey at the par-five sixth hole had Spangler at three over par. But he bounced back nicely and played one-over par golf over his final 12 holes.
“The wind was tough and I didn’t play number six very well,” said Spangler, a recent graduate of Northern Lebanon High School, playing in his first County Amateur. “But I responded pretty well and made a couple of birdies. I just wanted to go out and play the best I could, and wherever it landed me, it landed me.”
(Year, Player, Score and Course)
2020- Justin Arnt, 138, LV
2019- Jim Gardner, 134, LV
2018 – Tyler Massar, 136, BM
2017 – Dan Brown, 136, FV
2016 – Jim Gardner, 139, PM
2015 – Jim Gardner, 141, LV
2014 – Dan Brown, 140, RO
2013 – Mike Schmidt, Jr., 136, FV
2012 – Tony Deraco, 136 BMV
2011 – Dan Brown, 142, PM
2010 – Ryan Schneiter, MV
2009 — Tim Leeper, 138, LV
2008 — Mike Schmidt Jr., 139, RO
2007 — Andy Gibbons, 140, FV
2006 — Jim Gardner, 104 BMV (27 holes)
2005 — Bill Massar Jr., 139 PM
2004 — Blaine Peffley, 144 BM
2003 — Chris Gebhard, 137 MV
2002 — Joe Faller, 139, FV
2001 — Jon DiGiacomo, 145, RO
2000 — Blaine Peffley, 143, FV
1999 — Roger Karsnitz, 146, MV
1998 — Chad Schulze, 139, FV
1997 — Chad Schulze, 144, MV
1996 — Chris Gebhard, 141, FV
1995 — Bill Massar Jr., 71, MV (18 holes)
1994 — John Gross, 144, MV
1993 — Mike Schmidt, 143, MV
1992 — Jeff Hoke, 148, MV
1991 — Joe Faller, 147, MV
1990 — Dennis Toomey, 145, MV
1989 — Joe Faller, 146, MV
1988 — Bob Page, 146, MV
1987 — Michael Brooks, 149, MV
1986 — John Gross, 147, MV
1985 — Pete Gebhard, 145, MV
1984 — Bob Page, 139, BM
1983 — Roger Karsnitz, 148, FV
1982 — Pete Gebhard, 72, MV (18 holes)
1981 — Stu Ingraham, 140, LV
1980 — Ben Witter, 141, MV
1979 — Tom Lape, 140, BM
1978 — Stu Ingraham, 144, FV
1977 — Russ Ditzler, 145, PM
1976 — Jim Sherman, 138, LV
1975 — Bob Page, 150, MV
1974 — Kye Golembewski, 141, BM
1973 — George Eisley, 147, FV
1972 — Roger Karsnitz, 144, PM
1971 — William Weik, 142, LV
1970 — Paul Ingraham, 157, MV
1969 — Bob Page, 144, BM
1968 — Ron Will, 147, FV
1967 — Bob Page, 139, PM
1966 — William Weik, 143, LV
1965 — Joseph Spesak, 141, BM
1964 — Tom Donnachie Jr., 149, FV
1963 — William Weik, 149, LCC
1962 — Joseph Spesak, 140, LV
1961 — Tom Donnachie Jr., 144, FV
1960 — Joseph Spesak, 145, LCC
1959 — George Moeschlin Jr., 144, LV
Key: RO — Royal Oaks, FV — Fairview, MV — Monroe Valley, BM — Blue Mountain, LV — Lebanon Valley, PM — Pine Meadows, LCC — Lebanon Country Club