The Lehigh Valley Amateur at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa

Green Pond Country Club Bethlehem, Pa
Green Pond Country Club Bethlehem, Pa

Get a load of this fact: The Lehigh Valley Amateur golf tournament has been around as long as that venerable rite of springtime, The Masters, held at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia each spring.

While we aren’t comparing the two tournaments or the influence they have exerted over the world of golf, locally and regionally the Lehigh Valley Amateur has built up a strong, impeccable legacy of its own. There are no green jackets handed out to the winners of the event as the members of Augusta National Golf Club do for the winner of the Masters. But to claim the title as winner of the Lehigh Valley Amateur is something that every golfer in the area wants and strives for.

“The Lehigh Valley Amateur started in 1934 and was originally called the Presidents Cup, explained John Kulhamer, head professional at Green Pond Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., site of the prestigious tournament. “The tournament invited all club champions from the different clubs in the valley,  public and private. I am not sure when the event changed to the Lehigh Valley Amateur, but it has been held at Green Pond for the past 81 years and has followed the exact years as The Masters, taking three years off for World War II.”

Tony Sarko is the defending champion. Service Electric Cable and Communications is the presenting sponsor of the Lehigh Valley Amateur, which will be held Sept. 16 through 24.

“The tournament really is a celebration of golf,” said Rodger Zellner, president and COO of Green Pond Country Club.

The winner of the first Lehigh Valley Amateur way back in 1934 was Leroy Klipple, who also won the event in 1938. Jim Reynolds won three times in a row from 1939 to 1941. After a break of three years because of World War II, the event returned in 1946 and was won by Clyde Oskin.

Back to back winners of the Lehigh Valley Amateur have been Bruce Kovaleski (1955, 1956), Jack Thomas (1971, 1972, he also won in 1967), Richard Hallman (1974, 1975, he also own in 1980 and 1982), James Muschlita (1984, 1985), Brian Beldon (1988, 1989), and Barry Klinkowski (1990, 1991, he also won in 1995). Robin McColl won in 1986, 16 years later he again raised the trophy as he captured the tournament in 2002, and another 10 years later he won his third Lehigh Valley Amateur in 2012.

The event has evolved into a nine-day community showcase, said Kulhamer, attracting over 400 participants and 50 corporate sponsors. The event attracts over 5,000 spectators throughout the week and has already created a buzz this year.

Said Kulhamer, “Green Pond is a relatively short course, but has tree lined fairways and subtle greens and is deemed easy during the season. When the amateur rolls around, the course shows it’s teeth by lengthening the rough and increasing green speed even par-71 can be medalist with the last seed scoring 77.”

The top 64 players make the Championship field, and the next 64 play in the presidential flight. In the Senior competition, 32 players make the championship flight, and three flights of 16 fill out the division. A Super Senior division sees 16 players make the championship, and three flights of eight players fill out the division. In the Legends competition, eight players make championship, and one flight of eight players fills out the division.

The deadline for entries is Sept. 10 at 6 p.m., with any application accepted after this date and time to be assessed a $25 late fee. Entry fees include the tournament and one practice round. Food and beverages for the duration of the event are included with the player registration fee