BY JEFF FALK
QUENTIN – Most high-pressure golf playoffs are decided by one good shot. This one required two.
Rick Troutman struck both for his side.
Jimmy Gardner and Brian Auman had a response for the first one. But no answers for the second.
On Sunday afternoon, over Fariview Golf Course’s 6,305-yard, par-71 layout, Troutman’s pace-perfect, leaked-out chip led to the birdie on the 510-yard, par-five seventh hole that decided the championship of the 23rd annual Lebanon County Better-Ball-of-Partners tournament, in favor of he and partner Don Johnso. With Gardner and Auman dealing with tree difficulties, Troutman’s deft stroke came on the seventh hole of an aggregate-score-turned-sudden-death playoff, and the 43rd of the weekend.
Three holes earlier, Gardner had extended the playoff by sinking a critical 12-foot birdie putt on the 507-yard, par-five fourth hole. Moments prior, Troutman had blasted out of a green-side bunker to within a foot of the flag, and calmly sank his birdie attempt.
The playoff had been necessitated when Johnson-Troutman fired a second-round 64 for a 132 total, or ten-under par. Auman-Gardner carded an opening-round 65 to go with their 67 on Sunday.
Troutman and Johnson had each won a previous Lebanon County Better-Ball title with different partners, and what they accomplished on Sunday came on their first time teaming together. With Auman-Gardner, the defending champs, reeling in the runner-up trophy, first-round leaders Steve Allwein-John DiGiacomo, who carded a 64-69=133, and Greg Adams-Noah Firestone, who collected a 68-65=133, finished in a tie for third.
Cody Kersey-Mike Potts recorded a 65-71=136 to come in fifth, while Billy Massar, Jr.-Dave Berkheimer, who totaled a 66-71=137, and Jesse Brown-Darren Lutz, who registered a 70-67, tied for sixth.
Ryan Weaber-Shane Gingrich collaborated on a 69-72=141.
“The shot on the fourth hole was definitely harder,” said Troutman. “The shot on seven was just where I wanted to land it. I knew it would run out. I just wanted to pick out a spot. I had a good lie.”
“The chip on seven was amazing,” said Johnson. “He just snuggled it up there.”
“With being over the back, he had a lot of green to work with,” said Gardner of Troutman. “He hit a real nice shot. It was one I thought he could handle, and he hit it well.
“Rick’s a veteran, and obviously a great player” added Gardner. “It wasn’t shocking to see him make shots.”
Gardner and Auman both missed make-able birdie putts on the first hole of the playoff, while Johnson misfired on a 15-foot birdie attempt at the par-four second. Auman ‘burned the edge’ of an 18-foot downhill birdie attempt at the 202-yard, par-three sixth hole that would’ve won it for his team.
The par-four third hole and the par-four fifth hole were halved with pars. Neither team suffered a bogey during the playoff.
“It was a good solid playoff,” said Troutman. “There were no mistakes, but there were some other chances out there.”
“It was clutch, to extend it,” said Gardner of his putt on the fourth extra hole. “It was straight uphill. It just extended the playoff, that’s all. We were just trying to make birdies.
“They had two birdies on the par-fives,” continued Gardner. “We had two cracks at (Number) One. I was disappointed with myself. I didn’t hit a very good chip shot there.”
“They won it,” said Auman. “But I thought I drained that putt on (Number) Six. It was dead center. I felt OK, but you get mentally tired a little bit. Playing against those guys, you can’t let up.”
Johnson and Troutman torched Fairview’s back side for a three-under 32 to forge the playoff. Troutman birdied the par-three 13th from 13-feet, he two-putted both the par-five 14th and 17th holes for birdies.
“Coming off number 17, I thought to myself, ‘This is why we’re here’,” said Troutman. “The juices were flowing. We were in the hunt. That feeling, that’s why we keep competing. There’s nothing like that feeling. You’ve got the clubs. The ball doesn’t know your name or how old you are.
“I don’t know if we thought we had a legitimate chance, until it went from four-under to six-under,” Troutman continued. “We thought we had to make a birdie on 18. I thought ten (under for the event) was going to be one short.”
“It’s sort of satisfying, when younger players are hitting it way by you,” said Johnson. “I like to get up and down. The conditions were tough. The greens were firm. That gives everybody a chance.
“I’m just happy to be in an event like this,” Johnson continued. “We had a lot of fun. When Stu (Hanford) and I won it in ’07, someone missed a putt on the 17th hole. We didn’t really win it, they lost it. Today, we won it.”
With four shots to make up on first-round leaders Allwein-DiGiacomo, Johnson-Troutman were a modest one-under par for the day, thanks to Troutman’s tap-in par at Number Two. But the duo ripped off three birdies in a span of four holes to get to four-under par for their round, and seven-under for the tournament.
Troutman drained a ten-foot birdie at the par-four fifth, Johnson made a ten-footer at Number Seven and then a 15-footer at the difficult par-four eighth.
“I came in thinking if we played well, we’d have a chance to win,” said Troutman, who won the 1990 Lebanon County Better-Ball title with Pete Gebhard, also at Fairview. “I always think that. There were some great teams here. I wouldn’t say we were in the top two or three lists of favorites.
“I do feel old when I look in the mirror,” Troutman added. “I think on the golf course, if we play our game, we have a chance. I play everyday with guys who are longer than us. I probably don’t play as much competitive golf as I used to. I pick and choose a little more. I don’t play as many regular events. I do get a little out played there.
“We didn’t have to struggle to make par today,” said Johnson. “That’s how well we played. After six holes yesterday, we were two-over par. We played the last 30 holes, 12 under.”
Auman-Gardner’s 67 on Sunday featured five birdies and a single bogey, at the par-four fifth hole. It was their only bogey of the weekend.
“You can say that one bogey in 43 holes, that’s pretty good,” said Autman. “We just needed one more birdie. But I’d like to congratulate Rick and Don on a great tournament.”
“We knew how the team we were playing with was doing,” said Gardner of Allwein and DiGiacomo. “I was thinking par on 18 might be good. It just seemed like our birdie putts were all around the edges.”
For a time on Sunday, it appeared that first Brown-Lutz, and then Adams-Firestone had forged to the forefront.
Brothers Dan Brown and Dave Brown fired a five-under 66 on Sunday for a 137 total that was good enough to win the first flight. Ryan Fake and Todd Moore went even lower – a six-under 65 on Sunday – to claim the Second Flight with a 138 total. And Scot Adams and Tim Springborn captured the third flight with a 76-70-146.
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Lebanon County Better Ball
|Brian Auman and Jim Gardner||64-69-133||Pine Meadows||2014|
|Mike Schmidt Jr. and Ryan Weaber||Iron Valley||2013|
|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|
Congratulations, Don! Living the life!