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BY JEFF FALK

FREDERICKSBURG – There’s always a lot of talk about the three ‘C’s – chemistry, compatability and companionship – at better-ball events. And this 29th edition of the Lebanon County Bettter-of-Partners tournament certainly featured a lot of talented teams.

But because of their skill sets, career records and balance, the team of Jim Gardner and Chris Gebhard was the best collection of two individual players. And the best team won.

On a muggy Sunday at the 6,110-yard, par-71 Blue Mountain Golf Course, the cream rose to the top, as Gebhard and Gardner captured their first county better-ball championship together, with a final round of 63, or eight-under par. Gardner-Gebhard had entered the second day of the tournament facing a two-shot deficit, but their total of 66-63=129 proved to be good enough for a somewhat comfortable four -shot triumph.

Finishing as the runners-up were Mike Schmidt, Jr. and Pete Parpagene – one of three first-round co-leaders – who fired a second-day 69 for a 36-hole total of 133 or nine-under par. Third place went to the squad of Dan Mohn and Kerry Schneck, and their 64-72=137 total.

Four teams – Mike Spangler-Luke Spangler, Justin Arnt-Skeet Wentling, Don Johnson-Shaun Verneson and Sam Shrefler-Steve Van Der Ploog – finished in a tie for fourth place, at 137 or five-under par.

Previously, Gardner had captured Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners titles with Brian Auman in 2014 and 2009, and Jim Calhoun in 1997. Gebhard had claimed a county better-ball championship with Brian Boltz in 1996.

Together, Gebhard and Gardner had finished second at the Lebanon County Better-Ball the last two years.

Gardner and Gebhard played even-par golf through the first nine holes of Saturday’s opening round. But over their final 27 holes of the tournament, they went a combined 13-under par.

“I told him ‘We finished second the last two years. There’s room for improvement,'” said Gebhard of his partner. “Then we went out and shot even-par on the front-nine of our first round. But our timing was really good. On the holes he struggled, I played well. When you shoot 63, you’ve got to have good timing.

“Coming into today, we were two shots back of three teams,” continued Gebhard. “But there was only one team I was worried about. Parp and Schmidty are a pretty formidable team.”

Gardner and Gebhard took control of the outcome on Sunday’s front-nine, firing a six-under par 30 to establish a three-shot advantage over Mohn-Schneck and a five-stroke cushion over both Schmidt-Parpagene and Spangler-Spangler.

Gardner and Gebhard alternated birdies at the par-four opening hole and the par-four third hole, before Gardner drained a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-four sixth to get them to four-under for their round and nine-under for the tournament. Gardner also rolled in medium-range birdie putts at the 530-yard, par-five eighth hole and the 380-yard, par-four ninth hole.

“Yesterday (Saturday), I felt we played better than our score showed,” said Gardner. “We got off to a good start today (Sunday). That was the key.”

“Jimmy played great on the front-nine,” said Gehard. “That really set us up to play better on the back-nine. I was surprised when we got through 15 holes and heard how everybody was doing. I thought we were in the lead, but I didn’t think it was a significant lead. I thought we’d have to do better.”

Gebhard-Gardner put even more distance between themselves and the field with Gebhard’s 20-foot birdie putt at the 447-yard, par-five 13th hole. Gebhard’s 15-foot birdie at the par-four 18th was merely icing on the cake.

“When we play at a golf course like this, it’s a putting contest,” said Gebhard. “It’s not a golf course that demands great ball-striking.”

“As long as you’re driving well,” said Gardner, “you’ll have wedges in.”

The only birdie Schmidt and Parpagene could muster on the front-nine came at the par-four sixth hole. They did team for five birdies on the back-nine, but endured two bogeys there as well.

“I said if we shoot the same score again, we’d win. And we would’ve won by one,” said Schmidt. “We were down five shots at the turn, and we thought it was one or two. At that point, you’re still trying to win. But they (Gardner and Gebhard) played good golf.”

“They were a hole ahead of us, and on 14 it seemed like they were playing well,” said Parpagene. “They were teeing off first. They’re two good players.

“We had a good time,” added Parpagene. “We just didn’t make enough putts. Our good shots weren’t good enough.”

Mohn and Schneck posted birdies at the par-five fourth hole and the par-four sixth hole to get their round to one-under par, and their total to eight-under. But they registered two bogeys and no birdies on the back-nine and settled for a 37.

Spangler and Spangler managed a two-over par score of 37 on their front nine. They eagled the par-five 13th, but gave it right back with a double bogey at the par-four 14th.

Meanwhile, another father-son combo, Tim Leeper and Chad Leeper took top honors in the first flight with a 71-66=137 total. The championship of the second flight was garnered by Jared Brandt-Chad Smaltz, who recorded a 75-70=145.

The gold flight went to Jeff Pyles and Skip Krick, who carded a 67-67=134.

To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com.

Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners

Past Champions

Player NameScoreCourseYear
Dan Brown and Ryan Woefling63-64-127Pine Meadows2019
Mike Potts and Jesse Brown64-69-133Pine Meadows2018
Justin Arnt and Skeet Wentling66-64-130Lebanon Valley2017
Mike Schmidt, Jr and Pete Parpagene63-66-129Fairview2016
Don Johnson and Rick Troutman68-64-132Fairview2015
Brian Auman and Jim Gardner64-69-133Pine Meadows2014
Mike Schmidt Jr. and Ryan Weaber
Iron Valley2013
Bill Massar Jr. and Dave Berkheimer68-69-137Monroe Valley2012
No tournament due to flooding

2011
Steve Allwein and Mike Schmidt64-68-132Royal Oaks2010
Jim Gardner and Brain Auman60-65-125Fairview2009
Tom Kintzer and Greg Behney66-65-131Blue Mountain2008
Stu Hanford and Don Johnson64-67-131Pine Meadows2007
Perry Umlauf and Shawn Cooper66-66-132Royal Oaks2005
Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons62-67-129Pine Meadows2004
Dan Brown and Andy Gibbons66-60-126Fariview2003
Dan Brown and Chad Schulze61-65-126Lebanon Valley2002
Bob Wenrich and John Hacunda70-64-134Monroe Valley2000
John Digiacomo and Blaine Peffley64-67-131Fairview1999
Joe Faller and Phil Faller65-74-139Monroe Valley1998
Jim Gardner and Jim Calhoun68-67-135Fairview1997
Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz70-64-134Fairview1995
Pete Gebhard and Dave Kurtz65-68-133Fairview1994
Mark Ditzler and Tom Sherk69-68-137Fairview1992
Jeff Pyles and Jeff Behney70-68-138Fairview1991
Rick Troutman and Pete Gebhard70-65-135Fairview1990
Joe Faller and Dave Kurtz66-67-133Fairview1989
Bob Page and Bill Shoop68-65-133Fairview1988

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