GORDONSVILLE –– Blacksburg’s Jake Mondy showed little in the way of emotion during Saturday’s championship final of the 101st Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship at Spring Creek Golf Club.
But as his six-foot birdie putt touched the edge of the hole on the 36th hole and fell in, he dropped his putter and raised both arms in triumph.
Then, he went to hug his mom.
Mondy let a 4-up lead slip away before recovering to win on the final hole of the match, outlasting Richmond’s Jordan Utley 1 up to claim his second VSGA Amateur title in the last three years.
“You always dream about making putts like that on the last hole to win a big golf tournament,” said Mondy, who won his first title at Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach in 2012. “Being 4 up after the first 18, I didn’t want to have to make that putt. But I’m glad I did. Ten, 20 years from now, looking back at it, it will probably be a pretty cool memory.”
Mondy, a 21-year-old rising junior at Auburn University, joins an impressive list of golfers who have won two VSGA Amateurs since the turn of the century, a group that includes four-time champion Brinson Paolini and two-time winners Jay Woodson and Billy Hurley.
Mondy had a distinct advantage in power over the 28-year-old Utley, who was playing in his first competitive tournament of the year and earned his first championship final appearance at the VSGA Amateur. That edge didn’t really come into play until the final hole of the afternoon session, the par-5 18th, the 36th hole of the encounter, which plays to 561 yards. Utley hit first, putting his shot in the fairway, giving Mondy an opportunity to show his power off the tee.
“You know, of all of the tee shots on the golf course, that one doesn’t fit my eye at all,” Mondy admitted. “It’s a beautiful hole, but standing on the tee, it’s a little awkward to me. If he would have hit it in the water, or something like that, it would have been different. But he hit it down the middle, which helped me.
“I just stood over it and said, ‘It’s your time. Just rip one down the middle.’ And I did.”
Utley’s second shot settled about 130 yards from the green, but he put his third shot in the greenside bunker short of the hole. Mondy powered his second shot past over the green, and the ball settled about six inches into the back bunker.
Mondy said he hit the best bunker shot of his life, and the ball came to rest six feet to the left of the hole to set up the winning putt.
“There’s no lip right there, and I did have a pretty good lie,” Mondy said of the bunker shot. “There’s a lot of sand in those bunkers, so you have to just stay steady and make good contact. Hitting into the wind actually helped. I threw it up in the wind, and it was going to stop, even if there was a little bit of a downhill slope.”
Said Utley: “He made birdie to win. That’s the right way to do it. It’s unfortunate that I hit a bad third shot. His length wasn’t an advantage most of the day, but it definitely was an advantage on 18.”
The fact that Utley extended the match to the full 36 holes was a testament to his doggedness after falling behind. In the morning session, Mondy hit a spectacular putt on the par-3 17th to take a four-hole advantage, a 30-footer that broke hard over a ridge and trickled into the hole.
Utley steadied himself, and after the players parred 18, he went into afternoon with a puncher’s chance.
“I’m fine with losing holes like that, because it happens. It’s match play,” Utley said of his opponent’s incredible birdie make. “I had one like that in the afternoon. You expect the unexpected. You shrug it off and keep on going.”
Mondy and Utley halved the 19th hole in the afternoon, and as Utley came to the green at the ensuing hole, he pleaded with the quiet gallery that had gathered to get into the match.
“There was no energy at all,” Utley said. “Maybe that was part of it. It was lethargic this morning. There wasn’t any energy from me, because I wasn’t up in the match. Jake doesn’t exude energy, just because he’s so even keel. It was just so low key. If we were going to have people watching in the afternoon, I wanted to have good, positive energy for both players.”
The fans obliged, and it seemed to serve Utley well. He pulled within one hole down by the 27th hole. Mondy went 2 up after hole No. 30, but Utley responded in a big way, draining a 40-footer for birdie on the par-3 13th, the 31st hole of the match. Utley squared the match at the 32nd with a par after Mondy hit his tee shot into tall rough and missed a 12-footer for par.
“Jordan made a heck of a putt on No. 13 (the 31st hole of the match). Probably one of the better putts I’ve seen holed,” Mondy said. “He three-putted from that same area of the green on the first 18. For him to make a putt like that … I went from having a pretty simple chip for up and down to having to hole it. It’s a little different.”
In the end, though, Mondy secured the match with a tremendous up and down of his own. He got the hug from his mother, who wasn’t at Bayville in 2012, and he relished the idea of taking a few weeks off from competitive golf to recharge.
“I’m golfed out,” Mondy said. “I’m going to get away from golf for a little while and savor this one, and give my body a rest.”
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