SMITHFIELD, VA (May 13, 2006) -- Martinsville’s Keith Decker combined with Ryan Stinnett (Amherst) to fire a final round-best 8-under-par 64 to register a one-shot comeback victory as the 41st Virginia State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship concluded today at Cypress Creek Golfers’ Club (7,016 yards, par 36-36—72).
Decker-Stinnett turned in the low round of the 2006 championship, shot 31 on the back nine and 12-under 132 (68-64) for the event to blow past seven other teams on the last day. Central Virginians Paras Pandya (Midlothian)-Scott Bemberis (Richmond) placed second after carding a final round 67 (133, -11). Meanwhile, Larry Loving Jr. (Richmond)-Scott Campbell (Mechanicsville) and Tony Good (Glen Allen)-David Passerell (Scottsville) tied for third at 10-under 134.
After Stinnett birdied the first hole, Decker added two more birdies on the outward half and made crucial par saves on Nos. 8 and 9 to get the team to seven under for the championship at the turn. Following a Decker birdie at No. 10, he then birdied four of the final five holes, including two par 5s (Nos. 14 and 18) to vault the team to the top of the leader board. At one point, he ran off a string of three straight birdies from Nos. 14-16 to get the team to 11 under.
Decker, the No. 1 ranked amateur in the VSGA player rankings for the past five-plus years, had previously won three State Four-Balls with his longtime four-ball partner David Partridge (1999, 2001 and 2002). This year marked the first year Decker and Stinnett have teamed together. A professional for a year and a half, Stinnett regained his amateur status on April 10. The two-time State Am runner-up, who is now working for Nationwide Insurance in Nelson County, reintroduced himself to amateur golf by claiming his first VSGA title in his first State event since becoming an amateur again.
The grouping may have changed but the results followed the event’s recent history of a Decker-led contingent being in the winner’s circle.
“David’s as good a partner as you can hope to have, but Ryan is right up there with him,” Decker said. Work commitments prevented Partridge from competing this year. “He was a perfect fit.”
The victory brings Decker’s “major” VSGA titles to 16, having now won a record four State Four-Balls, three State Opens, two State Ams and an unprecedented seven Mid-Ams. He noted that this win is just as meaningful as the other Four-Ball triumphs.
“Winning never gets old,” Decker said. “We earned it today. We had to fight our way on the back nine. VSGA events don’t get any better than this.”
Pandya-Bemberis, knowing they were two back standing on 18 tee, had an opportunity to force extra holes at the last after Bemberis hit the par 5 green in two shots. But his eagle putt from 30 feet came up a roll short of dropping right in the center.
Loving-Campbell started the day two off the lead and were nine under at the turn. Two early bogeys on the inward half on Nos. 10 and 12 were offset by birdies on 13 and 14, and they couldn’t go any lower until a birdie at 18.
Good and Passerell posted another high finish in the event. A slow start which saw them shoot two under on the front before adding two birdies early on the inward half didn’t provide enough to catch Decker-Stinnett. Another strong showing which includes a runner-up showing in 2002 (to Decker –Partridge) and a t4 last year provides little consolation.
“It’s frustrating. You only get so any opportunities to win VSGA events before you start kicking the dirt around and this is one that Tony and I definitely want,” Passerell said.
For complete results, click on the tournament link above.