Campbell leads Virginia Mid-Amateur
POWHATAN, Virg. (Sept. 20, 2013) –– Western Virginian Ben Campbell (Cleveland) shot an opening-day 5-under-par 67 and is atop a crowded leaderboard entering Saturday’s second round of the 37th Virginia State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship being conducted at The Foundry Golf Club.

Making his debut appearance in the event, Campbell is a stroke ahead of former VSGA Mid-Amateur champion and Scott Shingler (Haymarket), who had 4-under 68. Fellow northern Virginian Brandon Cigna of Arlington is two back after recording a round of 3-under 69. Charlottesville’s Philip Mahone and Jon Hurst of Fredericksburg each carded 2-under 70. Three other competitors—Justin Young (Roanoke), Buck Brittain (Tazewell) and local Jordan Utley (Richmond) also posted red numbers, returning 1-under 71. The championship is open to golfers ages 25 and over.

Campbell, 38, rode a hot putter to the top of the leaderboard. His round was ignited by running off five straight birdies from Nos. 8-12. Campbell’s longest putt in that stretch was 20 feet, but he drained a combined 60 feet worth of putts in that span of holes.

He also played the precise golf that the demanding host layout rewards, hitting 16 of 18 greens and using 29 putts.

“It’s kind of unexpected. I don’t know who that guy was,” Campbell said with a laugh. “The greens are so good that if you start it on line, the ball has a really good chance to go in. I played really well and fell in love with the greens.”

Campbell separates his hands on the putter grip, a technique that causes him to concentrate on rocking his shoulders and keeping his hands out of the stroke. The method served him well on day one.

“I’ve putted better with it—but never this well,” Campbell said.

Shingler had five birdies against a bogey, with two of his birdies coming on the last three holes, Nos. 16 and 17. He showed a nice touch at the par-5 16th, negotiating a ridge to two-putt from 55 feet before tapping in for birdie from 10 inches at the ensuing hole.

“All in all, it was a good, boring round. I was hitting my driver, putting it in play and giving myself some good looks at birdies,” Shingler said. “My putting was good today. Anytime you shoot a good round, you have to make some 6- or 7-footers and I was able to do that.

“On these greens, you have to be in the right section. If you’re not in the right section of the green, you’ll have a 30- or 40-footer that’s up over a shoulder or crown and it’s really tough to gauge the speed. It’s fun—it’s brutal, but it’s fun.”

Shingler admits that he’s trying to regain some of the form that helped him win the Mid-Amateur in 2010 and claim the VSGA Amateur title a year later. He’s had time to work on some slight swing modifications over the past week and the results showed with a solid round.

“Hopefully I’m making some way on the direction I’m trying to go with my swing. I probably hit my irons as solidly as I’ve hit them all year [Friday],” Shingler said. “Two more days of the same type of game and I’ll probably be in the hunt—see what happens.”

Campbell and Shingler are among five competitors in the field who qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, set for Oct. 5-10 at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.).

Cigna got into the championship after withdrawing from a four-ball event at famed Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. His partner in the event they had intended to play in, the John R. Williams Invitational, had to withdraw as a result of this week’s D.C. Navy Yard shootings.

“He’s OK, which is the best thing. His being OK is way more important than us getting to play at a nice country club,” said Cigna, 27, who had five birdies against two bogeys in his debut appearance in the VSGA Mid-Amateur.

Mahone drove from his Charlottesville residence and only arrived about 10 minutes before his starting time, but promptly grabbed his clubs and managed to manufacture a round of three birdies against a bogey that included hitting 16 greens in regulation.

Hurst likewise saw the course for the first time when he stepped on the tee at No. 1 for the opening round.

“Sometimes that’s good for me—not knowing where the trouble is,” said Hurst, who logged four birdies against two bogeys. He played the four par 5s in three under par. “I didn’t hit the ball spectacularly, but got it in the hole. Maybe I’ll hit in a few better spots [Saturday]. I was above the hole a few too many times today. But if you shoot three pars under par at the Mid-Amateur, you’ll have a chance.”

Following Saturday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 45 players and ties for Sunday’s final round. Following the first round, there are 48 competitors at 6-over 78 or better.

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