HOT SPRINGS, Va. (June 25, 2013) — Three competitors—Vienna’s Pat Tallent, Vincent Nadeau of Gordonsville (Charlottesville area) and Richmond’s Matt Brantingham—each shot 1-under-par 69 to pace the first day of stroke-play qualifying at the 100th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship being conducted at The Homestead’s Cascades Course.
Tallent and Nadeau, separated in age by nearly 35 years, had the low scores of the morning, while Brantingham registered the best round after lunch. Seven competitors carded rounds of even-par 70, including 2011 champion Scott Shingler, 41, of Haymarket.
Talk about a tough day for scoring: The stroke average on day one was over 77.9. The 6,667-yard Cascades Course bore the full measure of its teeth, with its subtle undulations and requirement for exact shot placement penalizing just about every misstep.
The 59-year-old Tallent (pictured left) has played the Cascades enough times that he likely knows the layout’s root system. His course knowledge showed itself over and over again in the first round in which he made 15 pars, two birdies and a bogey. Tallent estimated that he only missed one fairway and wasn’t out of position on a course that demands accuracy.
“Distance is irrelevant on this golf course, so I can still play here,” Tallent said. “It’s more about controlling your distance, hitting it in the fairways and knowing where to putt from—knowing the greens. I’ve played here a million times, so I probably know it as well as anyone—enough so I know where I’m supposed to go and I went there most of the time today.”
At 53, Tallent won the 2007 VSGA Amateur to become the oldest winner in the history of the then 94-year history of the championship. Even with a field dominated by young players again this year, Tallent knows that his past starts in the event can be something of an ally, especially once match play starts for the low 32 qualifiers on Thursday.
“These young guys—once they get out of the stroke-play mentality—they’re going to make a lot of birdies,” Tallent said. “But they hit the ball so far, sometimes they don’t know what to hit off the tee on some of the holes and they’re playing at 2,500 feet, too. The ball goes a little further here. They’re young. They don’t have quite the experience that we wily veterans have.”
Nadeau, 25, wielded a hot putter to play the first 10 holes in three under par before making two inward-half bogeys. Last month’s VSGA Four-Ball winner, Nadeau says he has been struggling to find the pace on greens lately so he switched from a heel shafted putter to a center shafted putter two days before the start of the championship and used 29 putts on the Cascades’ sloping putting surfaces. And, importantly, Nadeau chose clubs from the tee that gave him the best chance for landing shots away from potential trouble.
“I kept it in play and only hit four drivers all day,” Nadeau said. His best showing at the event was a quarterfinal round appearance in 2008 at Kingsmill Resort’s River Course. “As long as you keep it in play, you should be in pretty good shape.”
Starting his round on No. 10, Brantingham, 28, got off to a strong start, playing a demanding five-hole stretch from Nos. 11-15 in two under par. Brantingham works in the wine import business and travels a lot, but he has crammed golf-wise for the VSGA Amateur—Tuesday’s first round was his 11th straight day of golf.
He’s played in about a half-dozen VSGA Amateurs, but has never made match play, a record he hopes to change come Wednesday’s final day of qualifying. Still, he admittedly has a sense of moment at the centennial of this week’s championship.
“This is a special place, a special venue and it’s the 100th VSGA Amateur,” Brantingham said. “I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing, either personally or professionally.”
Virginia Beach golfer Brinson Paolini, 22, the only player to win three consecutive VSGA Amateurs (2008-10), opened with 73. He hit only four greens on the second nine.
“It was a tough day,” said Paolini, playing in his last VSGA Amateur for the foreseeable future before turning pro before the end of the summer. “You get yourself around these greens and miss them in the wrong spots and they can bite you pretty easily.
“You’re going to make bogeys around here, but you have to make some birdies. I just didn’t make enough birdies. I missed it in spots you can’t score from.”
Among those needing a good round on the second day is defending champion and local Jake Mondy, 19, of Blacksburg, who opened with 77. Mondy, a rising junior at Auburn University, played his last eight holes in seven over par.
“The course isn’t playing easy,” Mondy said. “I didn’t get many good breaks today, but that’s golf. Hopefully they’ll bounce my way [Wednesday].”
Following Wednesday’s second round of stroke-play qualifying, the low 32 players will advance to match play. After the first round, there are 40 competitors with scores of 5-over 75 or better.
The last time the VSGA Amateur was at the Cascades in 2006, players with a 36-hole aggregate of 6-over 146 made match play.
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