HOT SPRINGS, Va. (June 27, 2013) — The co-medalists and two former champions were among eight golfers to advance to Friday morning’s quarterfinals as match play got under way today at the 100th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship being conducted at The Homestead’s Cascades Course.
Teenagers and twenty-somethings comprise the remaining players—all are age 22 or under and are in either high school, college or just finished college. The eight still standing may be young, but they don’t lack for experience or talent—six of the quarterfinalists posted wire-to-wire wins in the round of 16.
Among those who never trailed in their second round encounters were the two low qualifiers for match play in prep Zachary Bauchou (Forest), a 17-year-old rising junior at Timberlake Christian, as well as Bryce Chalkley, 22 of Richmond, a rising senior at Virginia Tech.
Bauchou will meet three-time winner and recent Duke grad Brinson Paolini, 22, of Virginia Beach in the quarterfinals, while on the opposite side of the bracket, Chalkey takes on Ji Soo Park, 20, of Clifton, a rising junior at the University of Virginia in an all-ACC encounter.
Another matchup of ACC players sees fellow 22-year-olds Mikey Moyers (Stanardsville), a senior at Virginia Tech, face friend Evan Beck of Virginia Beach (pictured right), who graduated from Wake Forest last month. The remaining match features local and defending champion Jake Mondy (Blacksburg), a 19-year-old sophomore at Auburn University, against central Virginian Jeremy Wells, 22, of Hopewell, who finished up at the College of William and Mary in mid-May.
All told, Bauchou, Paolini, Beck, Chalkley, Wells and Mondy never trailed in their round of 16 matches.
Bauchou, ranked No. 15 in the Golfweek junior boys’ rankings won three of four holes to start the second nine, Nos. 10, 12 and 13 to best Connor Hayden, a rising sophomore at Radford University, 3 and 2. Paolini, meanwhile, took control of his match against Alex Kormanec (Vienna) by rolling in consecutive birdie putts at Nos. 7 and 8 to go 3 up before rolling to a 5-and-4 victory.
A Lynchburg-area resident, Bauchou hardly seems intimidated by his first appearance in the VSGA Amateur—or for that matter his next opponent, Paolini, who is the only player ever to win three straight titles in the event, a feat he accomplished from 2008-10.
“I definitely know who Brinson is, yeah,” Bauchou said with a smile. “It’s going to come down to making swings and I feel like if I can make enough good swings, I’m going to be tough to beat.”
Paolini’s ball-striking has been customarily crisp, but he’s also seemingly mastered the Cascades’ undulating greens. Almost remarkably, he’s not three-putted since the start of the championship on Tuesday, a span of 63 holes.
This will be Paolini’s last VSGA Amateur before turning professional before the end of the summer. The last player to win four titles in seven years was record seven-time victor Vinny Giles in a span from 1962 to 1968. And a fourth title would tie him for the second-most of all-time with Billy Howell.
“With this being the centennial of the VSGA Amateur and it being at such a special place, I definitely want to go out with a win. I entered with that in mind and I’m trying to do everything I can to accomplish that,” Paolini said. “The past two days, I’ve been able to put some pressure on the golf course and if I can continue to do that, it should be important.”
His close friend, Beck, is on the same side of the bracket. If they could both post wins on Friday morning, Beck and Paolini, who’ve played golf together since they were 10 and are south Hampton Roads neighbors, would meet in the semifinals.
Beck wiped out Jack Wilkes of Roanoke, a 21-year-old rising senior at the University of Richmond, 6 and 4 after lunch on Thursday. Beck is certainly not looking past his next opponent, Moyers, who claimed No. 18 with a par to get past friend Weston Eklund, with whom he was staying with during this week’s event.
When Beck turns by the time the summer ends, he and Paolini will share a residence in Bluffton, S.C., while both are in the early stages of their careers. But, for the time being, what about Beck and Paolini facing off, with the winner ticketed for Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole title tilt?
“We still have a long way to go before that’s talked about,” Beck said. “He obviously has an unparalleled record in this event. I mean, he’s the only player to win three straight years. I’m proud of him for that.”
Mondy ousted fellow local, former pro and mid-amateur Justin Young, 35, of Roanoke, 4 and 3 in the second round of match play. The long-hitting Mondy has adjusted his mindset and course management this week on a layout that values precision over power. He didn’t hit driver or a fairway metal wood off the tee on the front nine in an effort to position his shot in the fairway on the Cascades’ narrow playing corridors.
“I hit a lot of greens—and a lot of fairways for once,” Mondy said with a smile. “Really, if you hit fairways and greens and roll in a few putts, you can compete against anyone out here.”
Mondy has won seven straight matches at the VSGA Amateur dating back to last year. With three more wins, he’d become one of nine players ever to post repeat victories. Is a successful defense stored away in his thoughts?
“I try not to think about it, but it’s hard to keep it out of your mind,” Mondy said. “But each hole is a different tournament. You play against your opponent to a certain extent, but if I do enough good things, we’ll see what happens.”
His next opponent, Wells, defeated Nick Tremps, 19, a rising junior at the University of Virginia, 4 and 3 in the afternoon session. Wells is playing in his first event of the summer and is competing in his last VSGA Amateur for the foreseeable future. He plans to turn pro in about a month.
For Wells, the VSGA Amateur is packed with memories, both good and bad. Last year, he lost a tough semifinal round match to Buck Brittain, who drained a 70-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to advance to the final against Mondy. Despite the heartbreak, the VSGA Amateur is special for Wells.
Following his victory on Thursday, Wells couldn’t help but recall the words of two-time winner Keith Decker, who recently reminisced about what it means to play in and capture the Amateur.
“He basically said for us young players, the VSGA Amateur is the only tournament we all talk about and want to win—and he’s exactly right,” Wells said. “I look forward to this every single year. I have a lot of good memories coming into this tournament and I feel confident on this golf course and against this field. From a playing standpoint, this is about as good as it gets.”
Chalkley recovered from trouble spots to register par wins at Nos. 6 and 10 that put him 4 up on both occasions against fellow Richmonder Matt Brantingham before going on to a 6 and 5 triumph. His quarterfinal round encounter against Park signals a rematch of their 2011 semifinal round match at The Virginian in Bristol that Park won in 19 holes.
Park lost in the final that year to Haymarket’s Scott Shingler, but he evened the head-to-head series between the two on Thursday, outlasting the northern Virginian in 19 holes. Trailing two holes down with two to play, Park won the last three holes of the match. The rally started at the par-5 17th where Park drilled his 6-iron second shot to 7 feet, ultimately resulting in a conceded eagle. Then at the par-3 18th, he drained a 20-foot right-to-left breaking birdie putt to force extra holes. Park completed the comeback at the first extra hole, the par-4 first, where his 9-foot par putt caught the right edge and fell in; Shingler’s 6-foot par attempt for a halve to continue the match went begging.
Park admittedly played as though he had nothing to lose down the stretch.
“At No. 17, I thought, ‘Oh, no, I lost again,’ ” Park said. “Scott is such a good player. I just tried to think, ‘Let’s play one more hole. Let’s play one more hole.’ I just tried to get to the next hole.”
Both the quarterfinals and semifinals are set for Friday, June 28 before the scheduled 36-hole final on Saturday, June 29.
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