Virg. Sr. Stroke Play: Decker takes it
DANVILLE, Virg. (June 12, 2013) –– Martinsville’s Keith Decker survived a turbulent front nine stretch, shot a final-round 74 and posted a two-stroke victory as the 28th Virginia State Golf Association Senior Stroke Play Championship concluded today at Danville Golf Club.

The 53-year-old Decker opened with a championship-best 3-under 67 on Tuesday—a large determiner in the event’s outcome—and finished the championship at 1-over-par 141. Decker picked up his first VSGA Senior Stroke Play title and second in the senior category, having won the 2010 Senior Open of Virginia.

Northern Virginians Pat Tallent, 59, of Vienna (final-round 71) and John Long, 60, of Centreville (last-day 74) finished two strokes back at 3-over-par 143. Billy Jahn, 55, of Virginia Beach (closing score of 76) completed play four off the pace (5-over 145). The two competitors at 6-over 146 delivered the two low scores of the day and recorded the only scores in red numbers in the final round—Jack Allara II, 58, of Salem carded 2-under 68, 10 strokes lower than his first day score, while Dave Pulk, 56, of Williamsburg logged 1-under 69.

Decker dropped back into a share of the lead with Jahn at even par after a disastrous close to his outward half. He played the final three holes in four over par, including making a triple-bogey seven at the par-4 seventh after his second shot from through the green on the left ricocheted off a tree and found a water hazard. Then he closed his outward half with a bogey.

KeithDeckerIinsiderBut Decker would steady himself enough to claim the title, accounting for three pars to start the second nine. Despite bogeys at Nos. 13 and 16, he sandwiched in a birdie at the par-5 15th where he hit the green in two, returning him to even par for the championship at the time. Decker saved par by getting up and down from 100 yards at the par-4 17th, converting on a 12-footer to help secure the title. Danville’s demanding greens were a factor in no competitor finishing with a 36-hole aggregate of even par or better.

“It wasn’t pretty, but it was good enough,” said Decker, who took home the Corbette King Trophy, honoring the past VSGA president (1975-76). “I made a lot of pars down the stretch. Anytime you win a VSGA championship, it’s a big honor.”

Tallent played bogey-free on the second nine to match the low score on the inward half of 2-under 33. Jahn, with whom Decker was tied to start the back nine, played Nos. 10-14 in five over par to drop out of contention.

The top-ranked amateur in the commonwealth in the regular division entering the championship, Decker collected his third victory in a VSGA points’ event this season. Decker says much of his good play in the early season can be attributed to improved health. This spring, he was diagnosed with high blood pressure and began taking medication for it in April.

“I’m playing better and I feel better than I did last year at this time,” said Decker, the winner of 19 ‘major’ VSGA titles and consistently the top-ranked amateur in the commonwealth since 2001. “I’m not as tired as I was toward the end of rounds like I was a year ago. I’ll give this win to the doctor.”

Among the super seniors (ages 65 and over), Alexandria’s Bill Engel, 66, made par on the first extra playoff hole to outlast Stan Fischer, 72, of Richmond. Both competitors completed the championship at 5-over 145. Engel posted 2-over 72, the second-low round of the day in the division, while Fischer, the first round leader, closed with 75.

On the first extra hole, the par-4 first, Engel hit his tee shot left, but his second shot found the putting surface safely, settling 35 feet from the hole. Fischer’s approach found the front right greenside bunker and he blasted to 25 feet; his par attempt hit the hole, but had too much pace to drop in. Engel two-putted from his position to take home his second straight title in the super senior division, having won last year at central Virginia’s Salisbury Country Club.

ABOUT THE VSGA Senior Stroke Play

36-hole stroke play competition (18 holes per day). Age groups will be 50-54, 55-59 and 60-and-over. All players will compete from the same set of tees. Open to VSGA members at least 50 years of age holding an active GHIN number issued by a licensed VSGA Member Club in good standing.

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