BY JEFF FALK
LEBANON – Because momentum in sports is so elusive and fickle, when contestants capture it their desire is to ride it for as long as possible. To relinquish it only grudgingly.
Jeff Castle and Jimmy Grem got on a roll yesterday at the Lebanon Country Club. But they never got off of it.
On Sunday at LCC’s 6,562-yard, par-72 test, Castle and Grem rode a golf roll the likes of which had rarely been seen before in the previous 70 years of the W.B. Sullivan Better-Ball-of-Partners tournament. The result was the largest margin of victory in the prestigious event’s final match of the championship flight.
Castle-Grem routed Mike Farling and Jeff Frazier 7&6, to win the Sullivan title going away. Of the 12 holes contested in the championship match, Castle-Grem won eight of them and lost one.
Castle and Grem captured the final five holes of the championship match to place an exclamation point on their first Sullivan attempt together. Castle is a part-time golf coach at Towson University in Baltimore, and Grem is his one-time student.
“There’s so many birdie holes out here you’ve got to keep going,” said Castle. “As soon as you play conservative, the next thing you know the match is even. As long as you allow the other guys to hang around, they’re still in the match.
“When Jimmy birdied number 11, I felt pretty good,” continued Castle. “It’s unlikely you’re going to lose the next five holes. You’ve got to keep fighting, and wherever it ends, it ends. You can’t just get up and coast in.”
“You can’t ever get conservative in match play,” said Grem. “One of us would play well when the other wasn’t. This style makes it look better than it was. But we played very well, all weekend.”
Castle-Grem clinched what came to become the inevitable on the most difficult part of the Lebanon County’s Club’s golf course.
Already ahead two holes, Grem rolled in back-to-back 12-footers at the 433-yard, par-four eighth and the 185-yard, par-three ninth to up his side’s advantage to four. Castle drained a ten-foot birdie at the par-five tenth, Grem sank another 12-footer, this time at the par-four 11th, and when the best that Farling and Frazier could manage at the par-three 12th was bogey, the match had reached a merciful conclusion.
“We got hot at the right time,” said Castle, who won the 2006 Sullivan with Michael Tydings. “The greens are so good that when you get on a roll, the putts just go in. The whole weekend we just kind of went back and forth.
“Coming in, I thought we had a good chance because we both make a fair amount of birdies,” added Castle. “The course got a lot softer (following Saturday’s rain). We played Thursday (during qualifying) and the greens were a lot faster. It’s good and it’s bad. The course played a little longer.”
“I was very confident, with the way I was playing,” said Grem. “But it all changes in tournament atmosphere. You expect to play well. We didn’t think we were the favorites, or anything. But you do need that level of confidence. You’ve got to feel you can beat the other guys out there.”
Castle-Grem jumped out to a quick two-hole advantage when Castle converted two short birdie attempts at the 507-yard par-five second hole and the par-three third hole. They won the par-four sixth hole with a par, before Frazier and Farling got one back with a birdie at the par-five seventh.
“I’ve been coming up here since the early 2000s,” said Castle, who teamed with Grem to post the medalist score of 63 during qualifying. “I took a break, then started coming again last year. I just love the course and the people. It’s like a mini-vacation. The people are nice and they just like seeing good golf. You don’t feel like an outsider. It’s just a great tournament.”
Castle and Grem had reached the championship match with a much more difficult one-up triumph over LCC’s duo of veteran Chris Gebhard and young go-getter Noah Firestone on Sunday morning. The back-and-forth affair may have turned at the par-four 17th hole, where both Grem and Castle decided to hit driver off the tee, instead of laying up.
Castle and Grem finished a total of nine-under par for the semifinal match, while Gebhard and Firestone were eight-under.
“It was a battle,” said Grem. “From (holes) seven through eleven, the holes were either won or halved with birdies.”
“The semifinal match was the best match we had,” said Castle. “They were two up early. But we had a lot of stretches where we made three or four birdies in-a-row, and when you do that you can put a little distance between yourself and your competition.”
“From what people said, we played the final match in the semifinals,” said Firestone. “It’s how it works. It’s all the luck of the draw. I had fun, but I like to win. I’m not mad about how we played, because we played well.
“You just tip your hat to them (Grem and Castle),” Firestone added. “They’re great guys, and they’re good players. Of course we wanted to win, but we lost to two good players.”
Farling and Frazier had reached the final match with a 2&1 victory over Ryan Orcutt and Nick Lickan in the semifinals on Sunday morning.
Top honors in the first flight were shared by Luke Morgan-Steve Rice and Tyler Maime-Jackson Fiel, who both carded two-round totals of 137. The second flight also ended in a tie, between Garret Barbush-Scotty Jones and Craig Kliewer-Alan Kliewer, who each fired three-round scores of 207.
Brixton Albert-Tony Parkhurst captured the third flight with a 138 two-round total. And Bob Knox-Rocky Dare shot a three-round 207 to win the fourth flight by eight strokes.
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