Virginia Open: 3 amateurs tied for 2nd
MIDLOTHIAN, Virg. (July 18, 2013) –– Former James Madison University golf teammates Mike Gooden and Jay Woodson share the overnight lead in the State Open of Virginia after each shot 6-under-par 65 Thursday at 7,026-yard, par-71 Independence Golf Club.

Woodson, 31, of Powhatan is the defending champion. Gooden, 34 and PGA head professional at Lakeview Golf Course in Harrisonburg posted his best score in State Open competition. Playing in the morning wave, each returned cards featuring five birdies, an eagle and a bogey.

It’s the first time Gooden has been a leader in the State Open. Woodson is the defending champion. Each logged five birdies, an eagle and a bogey. They have a three-stroke lead over the quartet of amateurs Jimmy Delp of Arlington, Matt Ball Jr. of Richmond and Matthew Brittain of Abingdon and Christiansburg professional Michael Wade who delivered 68s.

Five players are at 69, including perennial contender Chip Sullivan, PGA professional at Hanging Rock Golf Club in Salem, and two-time VSGA Amateur finalist Ji Soo Park of Clifton.

Ten players shot 1-under 70. Altogether, 22 competitors shot in red numbers on day one with the majority playing in the morning. The afternoon wave had to deal with sweltering temperatures and greens that got bumpier as the day wore on.

After spending some time playing mini-tours in Florida, Gooden, 34, returned to Virginia in 2009. He is the head PGA professional at Lakeview Golf Club in Harrisonburg.

“I definitely got very hot on the front nine and tried to continue it on the back, but the putter didn’t work quite as well,” said Gooden, a McGaheysville resident.

How hot was his first nine? His card showed eight 3s and a 6. Starting on the first tee, he birdied the first three holes, bogeyed the par-5 fourth, birdied Nos. 5 and 6 and made eagle on the par-5 eighth. He made nine pars in a row on the back nine.

“I was in a nice comfort zone. I had to catch myself a couple of times not thinking about the score,” Gooden said. “I’m not doing this every day. The hardest thing to do was stay in the moment.”

I think it was a huge advantage to play this morning,” Gooden added. “There are so many good players out here, just to be a part of the conversation is absolutely honorable. I feel excited, and I feel great about my game.”

Independence is playing to a par of 71 this year. The 13th hole has been converted to a par 4 from its usual par 5.

Woodson’s opening round was a contrast to last year’s start when he had to rally on his last three holes just to shoot under par. He also started fast with an aggressive play on the short par-4 10th hole, which gives players the option of laying up off the tee or trying to drive the green.

In years past when starting on 10, Woodson has played conservatively. This time he pulled the driver and hit his tee shot 30 feet from the hole. He two-putted for birdie, followed with another birdie at No. 11 and made eagle on the par-5 17th hole. He bogeyed the second hole but bounced back with three consecutive birdies.

“I felt good with the driver,” Woodson said of his opening tee shot. “I didn’t think about it a lot. I just took dead aim and hit it. I feel good about my game. My front nine could have been really low. I don’t think I had any putts outside 15 to 18 feet. I had a bunch of putts lip out.”

Woodson is coming off his best start on the NGA Tour this year. He shot 15 under par and finished seventh at an event in Mississippi last week. It was his first outing since the birth of his and wife Erin’s first child, Trey, on June 15. Erin encouraged him to practice during the time between the birth and last week’s event.

“I was prepared for last week. It was a little tougher [being away] than I expected, but it’s good to be back,” Woodson said.

Wednesday night Woodson teamed up with another JMU graduate, three-time State Open champion Faber Jamerson, for a putting match against Gooden and former University of Virginia standout Cameron Yancey, who spent a year on the PGA Tour and was low professional in the State Open in 2010.

“They beat us, but I think we’ll have to do it again,” Woodson said.

Ball, who lost to his brother, Adam, in the Richmond Golf Association Amateur Championship last month, concluded his front nine (starting on 10) with a hot streak. He used only 11 putts for the nine and played the last five holes four under par.

“Everything else was pretty average. The greens were really soft and you could fire at the flags,” said Ball, who took some time off after the City Amateur loss to regroup.”

Following Friday’s second day, the field will be cut to the low 70 competitors and ties for the third and final rounds, set for Saturday-Sunday, July 20-21.

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