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BY JEFF FALK

MYERSTOWN – In sports, body language is the window to the mind.

In golf, it’s a little different. You can tell the players who aren’t scoring well by the expressions on their faces, their slumped shoulders, their blank stares.

Yesterday, Justin Arnt’s demeanor was stoic, it gave away nothing. That’s just how he reacts when he’s in ‘the zone’.

On a warm Saturday morning, Arnt’s body language certainly didn’t belie the zone that he and his putter were in, while they were torching the 6,136-yard, par-71 Lebanon Valley Golf Course for a blistering five-under 66, during the opening round of the 62nd annual Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship. Arnt’s four birdies, one eagle and 29 putts staked him to a six-shot lead heading into Sunday’s second and final round back at Lebanon Valley.

Chasing Arnt will be newcomer Craig Kliewer and his opening-round 72, Dave Albright, who fired a two-over par 74, and John DiGiacomo and Greg Behney, who posted matching 75s. Perry Umlauf carded a 76, while another shot back was the threesome of Tony Deraco, Chris Gebhard and Bill Massar, Jr..

Arnt, the tournament’s co-director, has never won a Lebanon County Amateur Championship and his best, past finish was third in 2016. But he has gone low at his home course before, in the form of a 61, about four years ago.

Except for a few dirt-track racing events and a smattering of slow-pitch softball contests here and there, the Lebanon County Amateur represents the first organized sporting event involving local residents since Governor Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order in mid March – a span of nearly three-and-a-half months – caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I try not to get cocky with my body language,” said Arnt. “I was playing well, but I knew there were six to eight holes left. I didn’t want to get over-anxious. You’ve just got to try to keep yourself even-keeled. Rarely can you tell when good players are playing well or not.

“I’m competitive and I think the competitiveness in me comes out,” continued Arnt. “I always tell myself, ‘go through your routine’ – two practice swings before I hit a shot and three practice strokes before I putt. That’s just my way of going at a steady pace. If you’re playing well or playing with guys who are playing well, it can get to you. But you have to stick to your routine. To me, that’s ‘the zone’.”

Arnt began his round in ‘the zone’, with medium-range birdies at Numbers One and Two, and never really cooled off. The highlight of his day, a 35-foot eagle putt at the par-five seventh hole, got Arnt to three-under par, then he followed that with a 12-foot birdie at the 380-yard, par-four eighth hole.

“My putting was the key,” said Arnt. “I made some 12-to-15-footers, and even some six-or-seven footers. I hit my driver better. I kept it in play, I kept it in the right spots, When my putter is ‘on’, they go in, and that’s kind of how it went.

“It was nice to roll putts in on One and Two,” added Arnt. “I got off to a good start. I had a goal today of going into Four one-under, and I was two-under. I’m very pleased. I didn’t see this coming. It’s nice to feel a round come together. I’m not upset with my bogeys because they came at hard holes.”

Arnt’s third and final bogey came at the par-three 13th. But he closed his round with back-to-back, seven-foot birdies at the 380-yard, par-four 16th and the 265-yard, par-four 17th.

“I’ve played mediocre,” said Arnt of his past performances at the County Amateur. “No, that’s not good enough. You let something slip away, and maybe its because you didn’t go through your routine. It’s huge. I’m the co-director of the tournament. It’s at my home golf course, and the club guys are pushing us to win it.

“Even with a six-shot lead, I’m not going to go conservative,” Arnt continued. “I’m going to play my game. Six strokes is nice, but I’m going to play the same way. I’m not going to change my game. When I can, I’m going to go for it.”

Kliewer, a resident of Lancaster and a member of the Lebanon Country Club, took a completely different approach. After making the turn at four-over par, he picked up the pace on the back, with short birdies at Numbers 11, 15 and 17.

“I’m always a little edgy,” said Kliewer, of his initial foray into the Lebanon County Amateur. “But once I put my peg into the ground, it’s ‘go’ time. I don’t think about anything else but putting the ball in the hole.

“Once we were able to play on May 1st (after some COVID-19 restrictions were lifted), I was chomping at the bit,” Kliewer added. “I like to play a lot of golf. It (the pandemic) held me back a little, but now I’m starting to get into the swing of things.”

Kliewer got off to a tough start on a course he hadn’t played in quite some time. He was four-over par through six holes, before a birdie at the par-five seventh got him on track.

“It was a rough start, for some reason,” said Kliewer. “I’m always a fairly decent driver, but I had a couple of loose drives. Then I found my driver swing, and I got it up and down a few times. To finish with a 72 the way I started, I’m very pleased.

“I needed something to get the round started,” continued Kliewer. “The birdie on Number Seven was a good birdie. I sort of settled in after that. I felt comfortable over the ball. I felt comfortable putting.”

A triple bogey a the par-four tenth put Albright at four-over par for his round. But he rattled off three consecutive birdies, at Numbers 13, 14 and 15 to put himself back into contention.

DiGiacomo’s round consisted of 38-37 nines, as did Behney’s.

Reigning Lebanon County Amateur champion Jim Gardner chose not to defend his 2019 title.

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

62nd Annual Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship

(at 6,136-yard, par-71 Lebanon Valley Golf Course)

Sunday Starting Tee Times

8:00 AM Dave Hoover (85) Leon Nolt (86) Jared Brandt (86)  
8:10 AM John Feeman (82) Ben Feeman (82) Jim Pesta (85)  
8:20 AM Steve Allwein (78) Darren Lutz (79) Jeff Hoke (80) Steve O’Neal (81)
8:30 AM Chris Gebhard (77) Bill Massar Jr. (77) Ryan Woelfling (77) Jordan Rhen (78)
8:40 AM John DiGiacomo (75) Perry Umlauf (76) Kerry Wentling (77) Tony Deraco (77)
8:50 AM Justin Arnt (66) Craig Kliewer (72) Dave Albright (74) Greg Behney (75)

Lebanon County Amateur Golf Championship

Past Champions
(Year, Player, Score and Course)

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

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