GORDONSVILLE, Va. –– A third appearance in the Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship match play semifinals turned out to be the charm for Richmond-based Jordan Utley.
Utley, 28, who lost in semifinal matches in the 2006 and 2008 events, rolled past home-course favorite Vincent Nadeau 6 and 4 Friday afternoon at Spring Creek Golf Club to earn a spot in the 36-hole final for the first time.
His opponent Saturday is 2012 champion Jake Mondy, 21, of Blacksburg who dusted Bryce Chalkley (Richmond) 7 and 6 in the semifinals.
Mondy and Utley have a history in the VSGA Amateur. Mondy was a 16-year-old first-time participant when he eliminated Utley, who had just earned a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Virginia, in a birdie-filled thriller at Suffolk’s Cedar Point Golf Club in 2009.
“I don’t remember exactly how it ended,” Mondy said. “I just remember we made a lot of birdies coming in.”
Said Utley: “If I go back and think about it, we probably had 13 or 14 birdies in that 18-hole match. It was electric with how it was. I just made too many mistakes that day so hopefully if I can eliminate them, I can keep pace. He’s making a lot of birdies this week.”
Mondy, 21, a rising junior at Auburn University, bested 2011 champion Scott Shingler, 42, of Haymarket 5 and 3 in the morning quarterfinals.
Chalkley, who has exhausted his eligibility at Virginia Tech, knocked out Ji Soo Park, a rising senior at the University of Virginia from Clifton, in 20 holes in the quarterfinals. It was the third time the two have gone extra holes in a VSGA Amateur match. Park won the first two, including in the semifinals the year Shingler won.
“I’ve been making a lot of putts which is key in match play,” Mondy said. “I’ve been keeping the ball in front of me. I’m not hitting the driver that great, but it’s been good enough to get me in play … I kept getting good yardages in the fairway. You can stand over a shot and make a good driving range swing at it and go right at it.”
Mondy shot the stroke play equivalent of 6-under 30 on the front nine in the match with Chalkley. His shot of the day was holing out for birdie from a bunker on the par-3 fifth with Chalkley’s ball nestled 10 feet from the hole.
Mondy has been at home for a night in the past three and a half weeks. He played in two national-level tournaments before coming here.
“Thirty-six holes is a heck of a long day, and I’m pretty worn out. It’s been a grind. I’m looking forward to one final day tomorrow,” he said.
Utley, the director of finance at Independence Golf Club, is playing in his first tournament of the season.
“Something just kind of felt right today. The iron play was there, and I hit a lot of really, really good shots,” he said. “For the most part, if I had a line, I hit it off the tee. It didn’t matter if I was trying to hit a high draw, a high fade, low cut or low draw, all the shots were working today.”
A stellar match with two-time Junior Match Play champion Mark Lawrence Jr., a rising senior at Mills E. Godwin High in Richmond, hinged on a flukish bad break for Lawrence.
Utley held a 1-up lead as the two teed off on the driveable par-4 16th hole. After Utley’s tee shot came to rest in a greenside bunker, Lawrence’s drive bounced off a sprinkler head at the green and became a lost ball when it settled in tall weeds over the putting surface.
Utley sealed the 2 and 1 victory with a brilliant bunker shot to save par at the par-3 17th hole.
“The match was so good. I don’t think he hit that bad of a shot, and to get a break like that is very unfortunate,” Utley said. “Clearly, it benefitted me, but just like (Thursday), I don’t like winning matches when that type of stuff happens. I’ll take it. I wanted to go out and not have those bad breaks dictate a match.”
Utley produced two other wow factor shots against Nadeau, who eliminated past two-time champion Keith Decker 2 up in the quarters before a vocal local following. A high faded hybrid at the ninth hole led to an eagle and a 3-up lead at the turn. After sinking a 30-foot downhill birdie putt on the 13th hole, Utley hammered a 3-iron from 204 yards out against the wind to 2 feet from the hole to close out the match at No. 14.
“He didn’t make any mistakes,” Nadeau said. “He finished strong birdieing the last two holes. That hybrid on the last hole was pretty incredible.”
Utley lost in the semifinals to eventual champions Chris McCartin in 2006 and Brinson Paolini in 2008.
“I don’t really know what happened the first two times. It’s been several years ago. I don’t know if I was tired or mentally worn out. I felt mentally fresh this afternoon,” he said. “I think it was probably because I played so well this morning. I was just ready to go. I feel like I belong, and I wanted to take the next step so I’m glad today was the day.”
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