VIRGINIA BEACH, Virg. (June 29, 2012) -- Medalist and Virginia Beach resident Brinson Paolini, 21, was among eight players to advance to Thursday’s quarterfinal round of match play at the 99thVirginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship being conducted at the 7,100-yard, par 72 Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach.
Teenagers and twenty-somethings dominate the remaining field. Paolini, a rising senior at Duke University, is among seven golfers age 23 and under to reach the round of eight and is the only local player in the quarterfinal field. Additionally, he was the only player of the low seven qualifiers for match play to reach the quarterfinals.
A day after setting the course record with a scorching 63 to earn low qualifying honors, Paolini bested teenager John David Sanderson, 19, of Suffolk to open match play. In an all-ACC matchup after lunch, he outlasted Mikey Moyers (Stanardsville), a 21-year-old rising senior at Virginia Tech, 2 and 1. Moyers bested 2011 champion Scott Shingler of Haymarket, 1 up, in the first round in one of eight matches in the morning session that went to the 18th hole or beyond.
Paolini led wire-to-wire in both of his matches. His encounter against Moyers proved to be his toughest. Two holes up through 12, Moyers scored par wins at Nos. 13 and 14 to square the match. Paolini birdied the par-5 15th hole from tap-in range to go 1 up; Moyers barely missed on his 7-footer at the hole for a halve. Paolini blocked his tee shot right at No. 17, but got up and down from 40 yards short right of the green for an eventual par to close the match.
The winner of an unprecedented three consecutive VSGA Amateurs from 2008-10, Paolini knows all about the survive-and-advance dynamic that accompanies winning tough matches.
“The thing about these type of events is that they end very quickly and very suddenly, so you try to do everything you can to keep going,” said Paolini, who had a record 16-match win streak at the event before being eliminated in the second round last year. “It’s all about [Friday]. I was fortunate to win both of the matches today after having to gut it out.”
In Friday morning’s quarterfinals, Paolini will face the only mid-amateur (ages 25 and older) left in the field, 45-year-old Buck Brittain of Tazewell, a 3 and 2 victor over Weston Eklund, 22, of Charlottesville in the second round of match play. Brittain led all the way in both of his matches en route to reaching the quarterfinals for a second straight year.
The southwest Virginian has taken down the medalist before at the VSGA Amateur, besting Scott Marino, the low qualifier at the 2006 championship at The Homestead’s Cascades Course. Brittain knows he’ll need his best effort against Paolini.
“I have to play as well as I can play,” Brittain said. “He’s going to win some holes. I just have to make sure not to give too many away. I’ve knocked off a No. 1 seed before, so I know it can be done, but I have to be on top of my game.”
Two 21-year-old collegians will meet in the other encounter in the top half of the bracket. Mac McLaughlin (Shaker Heights, Ohio), a rising senior at the University of Virginia where is a member of the golf team, faces Jeremy Wells (Hopewell), a rising senior at the College of William & Mary.
McLaughlin, a VSGA member at a VSGA Recreational Golfers’ Club (classified as a Type II club), UVA Golf Club, got past Richmond’s Bryce Chalkley, a 19-year-old rising junior at Virginia Tech, 2 up in the second round. Wells, meanwhile, won two of the final three holes of the match to record a 2-and-1 win over Ji Soo Park, 19, Centreville, last year’s runner-up.
Wells, a St. Christopher’s School graduate, shot the stroke-play equivalent of five under par counting the concessions that are typically a part of match play against Park in a well-played match with afternoon winds kicking up off the Chesapeake Bay.
“It was the best golf match I’ve ever played in. We were back and forth all day,” Wells said. “I think I missed one green, one fairway, I hit two par 5s in two and I drove one [par 4]. And Ji Soo missed two greens, hit two par 5s in two and missed one fairway as well. It was great playing. It was a lot of fun for both of us. It’s a bit unfortunate for Ji Soo, because I think we’re playing some of the best golf right now. It’s definitely a match I’ll remember for a while.”
Wells, who has played in about a half-dozen VSGA Amateurs, isn’t surprised to see the crop of young players continuing to excel at the event.
“It’s funny. I feel like the veteran out there at 21 years old,” he said with a laugh.
Remaining matches see northern Virginian Josh Apple, 22, of Lansdowne meet Midlothian resident and 23-year-old Tim Osterbind, a Manchester High School graduate. Teenagers Adam Ball, 18, of Richmond takes on Jake Mondy, 19, of Blacksburg in an encounter featuring past VSGA Junior Stroke Play champions. Ball and Mondy shared VSGA Junior Boy of the Year honors in 2010.
In the morning, Apple won his first match ever at the VSGA Amateur in three previous appearances in the round of 32. After lunch, he played a tightly-contested match against 21-year-old Daniel Walker (Earlysville), the second low qualifier for match play. Neither player held more than a 1-up lead. Apple took the lead for good, 1 up, by sinking a 4-footer for a birdie win at the par-5 15th hole. He knocked in putts inside 7 feet to halve the holes – and maintain his lead – at Nos. 17 and 18.
“My goal was to win a match today, so I exceeded my goal,” said Apple, a spring graduate of George Mason University where he was a four-year member of the golf team. “I definitely think I can win. I’m hitting the ball well and putting as well as I have in my life.”
At age 23, Osterbind is the veteran of the four players in the bottom half of the bracket. Osterbind ousted seven-time VSGA golfer of the year and VSGA points’ leader Keith Decker, 51, of Martinsville in the second round, 3 and 2, to continue his unexpected run.
Osterbind is working at central Virginia’s Brandermill Country Club this summer and could only smile after the match as he balances work obligations with his excellent play at the Amateur.
“From here on out, I feel like I’m playing with house money. I didn’t even expect to make match play. I only took two days off work and am finding other guys to cover for me. I just hope I have a job when I get back,” Osterbind said, bursting with laughter.
Mondy, a rising sophomore at Auburn University, claimed three straight holes from Nos. 8-10, playing that stretch in one under par to go four holes up before going on to defeat Alexandria’s Dan Hosek, 5 and 4.
Ball, who only got into the championship after winning last week’s VSGA Junior Match Play Championship, is making the most of the opportunity. The rising senior at St. Christopher’s School made four birdies on the first nine, held as much as a three holes up lead on the second nine and went on to hold off 24-year-old Garland Green (Tazewell), 2 and 1.
“In the second match, I made a lot more putts,” Ball said. “I know what I have to do – one shot at a time and one match at a time – and see where that takes me.”
After getting acclimated to the match play format early in his career, Ball won a combined eight matches in taking home back-to-back VSGA Junior Match Play titles in 2010 and 2011. He also won four matches in reaching the semifinals of last year’s U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at Gold Mountain Golf Club’s Olympic Course in Bremerton, Wash.
“I’m starting to like match play now,” Ball said with a laugh. “I used to not like it. I never knew how to play it, but I guess I figured it out at the U.S. Junior last year and it has been treating me well ever since, so I’m looking forward to [Friday].”