BY JEFF FALK
FREDERICKSBURG – Bill Massar, Jr., may never count his ‘chickens’ before they hatch. But at least for one day, the early bird did get the worm.
The youngest player in the field playing in the first group of the day, Massar, Jr. was a true ‘Spring Chicken’ Friday afternoon at the 26th annual Lebanon County Senior Amateur, contested over Blue Mountain’s 6,059-yard, par-71 test. The 50-year-old Massar parlayed his first County Senior Amateur start into a fast one, pocketing three birdies before most of the 44-player field had teed off.
By the time noon was approaching, Massar, Jr. had collected six birdies, one lone bogey and a five-under par score of 66. Ultimately that was good for a four-stroke victory in the one-day event, over Jerry Succi, who checked in with a one-under 70.
Bruce Gwin and Tom Stakem fired one-over 72s to finish in a tie for third, while past champs Tim Leeper and John Hacunda carded a 73 apiece. Shooting 74s were Tony Deraco, Jon Hurst, Scott Behney, Dick Lash, Skip Krick, Ray Plummer and Massar’s father, Bill Massar, Sr., the oldest competitor in the tournament.
Massar, Jr., a proven winner locally for the past 20 years, was paired in a foursome that included his dad and Uncle Joe, and found the familiarity much to his liking. Massar, Jr. hit 16 greens in regulation en route to his second-lowest competitive round ever.
“You’re a little more relaxed, you are,” said Massar, Jr., a two-time Lebanon County Amateur champion. “I didn’t like the tee time. I didn’t want to hold anyone up. It’s weird I never go off first. But you set the pace.
“I thought in my head that I needed four under,” continued Massar, Jr.. “That was because of guys like Deraco, Leeper and Succi. Deraco loves this course. But when I got to four-under, I got conservative. I was hitting irons off the tee. But it was solid. It was neat.”
“Billy just turned 50, this was his first time in it and he really played well,” said Succi. “He deserves it. When I made the turn I thought they said that Billy was four-under. That’s an exceptional front-nine. Congrats to Billy. A great job on his part.”
Massar, Jr. birdied the 397-yard, par-four third, then rolled in a 15-footer for bird at the par-five fourth. And Massar, Jr. also connected on birdie putts of less than eight feet at 318-yard, four sixth and the 380-yard, par-four ninth.
“I got a new driver and I was thinking, ‘just hit it straight,'” said Massar, Jr.. “And then I started making putts, and kept rolling. Everything just went nice. I felt like I could make any putt I got over.
“With these greens, you’ve got to be able to chip and putt here,” continued Massar, Jr.. “The trees grew up here a lot over the last few years. The greens are undulating and they’re tough. But they weren’t fast today and that helped me. You had to hit it. And when you hit through the ball, it goes straight.”
The only swing Massar, Jr. wanted back was his approach shot on the par-five 15th hole, which flew the green from in front of the stream. It was his only bogey, and he got that one back at 313-yard, par-four Number 17, where he hit the flag before settling for a birdie.
“I practice a lot at it,” said Massar, Jr. of his short game. “I only had one chip today and that was the result of hitting 16 greens. I don’t know why I’ve never been able to play a bogey-free round, but every time I golf, that’s my goal. I thought to myself, ‘if I can get through 15, I can do it.’ So I laid up to avoid the creek and flew it over the back.
“I felt like there was more pressure on me because everyone was saying I was the guy to beat,” Massar, Jr. continued. “It was like being the youngest, ‘Look, now he’s in.’ But this is the best I’ve played in a long time.”
For his part, Succi finished with a flurry. He rattled off birdies at the 136-yard, par-three 16th, at Number 17 and Blue Mountain’s closing test, the 316-yard, par-four 18th. His score of two-under 35 represented the lowest on the back-nine in the event.
“The problem was I had four bogeys,” said Succi, a member of the Lebanon Country Club. “But it was a good day. Everybody knows each other. Any day with these guys is a great day. They’re competitive, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t care if you’re my friend or not, I want to beat you. And they feel the same way. Everyone is happy for who wins.
“I haven’t played in The Senior in a couple of years,” added Succi. “The last time was at Lebanon Valley. I was two-under going into 18 and hit two out of bounds. And I lost to John Hacunda by a stroke. Today I wanted to come out and have fun.”
Succi bogeyed both par-threes on the front and also took them at Numbers 11 and 13 on the back.
Gwin got his round to two-under with a birdie at the par-five fourth, but played three-over golf the rest of the way. Stakem recorded two birdies, three bogeys and 13 pars.
Lebanon County Senior Amateur Golf Tournament