WILLIAMSBURG, Virg. (Aug. 23, 2013) –– Defending champion Jon Hurst of Fredericksburg shot 4-under-par 68 to earn medalist honors in stroke-play qualifying as the 10th Virginia State Golf Association Public Links Championship got under way today at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club’s Green Course. The event is open to bona fide public course players.
Hurst earned the top seed for match play, which begins on Saturday. Fellow northern Virginian Jimmy Delp (Arlington), the 2009 champion,returned 2-under 70 and is the second low qualifier for match play. Teenager Rives Fleming of Richmond and Roanoke’s Justin Young also posted red numbers, with both competitors carding 1-under 71 to fill the third and fourth seeds, respectively. Three others shot even-par 72 in local, Robert Bonney III (Williamsburg), as well as Tom Wharton of Stafford and Connor Rinoski (Yorktown).
Hurst got off to a strong start, birdieing four of the first five holes. He started the round by birdieing the first two holes, knocking in putts of 15 and 8 feet. Thereafter, he had a tap-in at the par-4 fourth and completed the early surge by draining a 15-footer at the ensuing hole. Hurst, who plays at Lee’s Hill Golfers’ Club in Fredericksburg, had little difficulty in finding the pace of the putting surfaces on day one.
“The greens here are just like the ones I play at home, so I didn’t have a hard time adjusting,” he said.
Hurst, 43, has won three consecutive events in the commonwealth leading into the Publinx and his hot start signaled a continuation of his good play.
“It took a lot of pressure off. I started hitting it in the middle of greens and knew I could play safe,” Hurst said.
All told, competitors at 2-over 74 or better made the match play field. Hurst won last year’s championship at stroke play and knows anything can happen with the uncertainties inherent in match play, which starts Saturday.
“With only 16 guys and 74 being the cut-off number, there should be close matches from here on out,” said Hurst, who is trying to become the event’s first repeat champion.
After shooting two over par on the outward half, Delp admittedly wondered if he was going to be around for the start of match play. But he rebounded to shoot three under on the inward nine, holing a short putt at the par-4 10th before sinking 20-footers at Nos. 12, 14 (played as the toughest par 4 on the day with a 4.791 stroke average) and 16 to complete the turnaround.
“I got off to a really slow start and thought it was going to be a short trip to Williamsburg, but I got it back together,” said Delp, 33, a member at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton. “I started putting a lot better, so that’s all that matters. I’m hoping to take this, get some momentum and go from there. I just wanted to get into match play and see what happens.”
Young, 35, and Fleming, an 18-year-old rising senior at The Collegiate School in Richmond, each logged three birdies against two bogeys. Two over par through seven holes, Young was three under the rest of the way, accounting for birdies at Nos. 8, 12 and 13.
“I made a couple of good, solid putts to give myself a cushion,” said Young, a member at Ole Monterey Golf Club in Roanoke. He is making his debut appearance in the event. “I didn’t putt lights-out but I made them when I needed to.”
Fleming, a member of College Prep Golf Tour, a VSGA Recreational Golfers’ Club (also known as a “club without real estate”) birdied the par-5 18th to finish under par.
At the conclusion of stroke-play qualifying, four players at 74 vied for two spots in the match-play field, with Jim Nirich (Catlett), the 2006 event winner, and Alexandria’s Dan Hosek, the runner-up in 2004, advancing.
The first and quarterfinal rounds of match play are set for Saturday followed by the semifinals and championship final on Sunday.
View results for Virginia (VSGA) Public Links Championship