(Virginia State Golf Association photo)
SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. — Charlottesville’s Kevin Miller and central Virginian Ben Beach (Glen Allen) combined to match a championship and final-round best score of 7-under-par 65 to post a one-stroke victory over two other teams as the 50th Virginia State Golf Association Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship concluded today at Fawn Lake Country Club.
Miller-Beach closed the event with a 13-under 131 aggregate. They edged Dave Pulk–Nathan Dean of Williamsburg, who equaled a final round best aggregate of 65, as well first-day co-leaders Jerry Burton (Gordonsville)-Herbie Sargent (Dayton), who closed with 5-under 67. Both tandems finished with a 12-under 132 total.
Northern Virginians Brian Marfori (Fairfax)-Craig Mason (Lorton) returned their second straight 67 and completed action three back (10-under 134).
Miller-Beach began the day one stroke back of three other teams who shared the overnight lead at the end of day one. In the final round, Miller-Beach played the final 12 holes in seven under par to take the title.
In that span, they put together a ball striking and scoring clinic. Beach got things going by chipping in from off the green at the par-4 seventh hole, before Miller knocked in a 14-footer at the ensuing hole and stuffed his approach to 14 inches at No. 9, helping the partners shoot three under par on the outward half.
Their four birdies in a five-hole stretch from Nos. 13-17 helped fuel them to victory. Miller stuck shots to within 2 feet at Nos. 13 and 14 for tap-in birdies, before Beach drained a 5-footer at No. 16 and rolled in a slick downhill 15-footer for birdie at the penultimate hole to give the team the lead for good.
Miller, 35, has been playing in VSGA events for more than 20 years, while Beach, 28, has competed in association championship for nearly 20 years in his own right. Both took home their first VSGA title and soaked in the accompanying feeling of exhilaration.
“I feel like a winner for the first time in a long time,” Beach said. “To actually win one with a good friend—I mean, I don’t want to say it’s the thrill of a lifetime—but it’s awesome. I was a very heavy jockey for a couple of days. He played great.”
After they opened with six straight pars, Miller pointed to his partner’s chip-in for birdie at No. 7 as an important moment during their round.
“That was the one that got us going. I told him that was the momentum-swinger,” Miller said.
Both competitors complemented one another well through the two days, going without a bogey in the 36-hole competition.
“It was a true team effort. It was great. He held me in there when I fell off,” Miller said. “It was so fun to play with someone who was in every hole. It was a true testament to team golf. If you look at the two days, it was an equal effort. His putts on [Nos.] 16 and 17 were huge.”
Pulk-Dean began the day two strokes off the lead, but shot four under par on the outward half to get to nine under for the championship to overtake the lead. They played their final 12 holes in three under, highlighted by Dean’s eagle-2 at the par-4 13th, where he blistered a tee shot that settled 4 feet from the flagstick. But their birdie at the next hole would be their last of the day. Dean’s 18-foot birdie chance at the last narrowly missed.
“We knew 12 or 13 [under] would’ve been close,” Pulk said. “We missed some short putts and could’ve been three or four shots better—but everyone has a story of leaving a few shots out there. [Miller-Beach] shot four under on the back nine and we shot three [under]. We paired well together. It wasn’t easy to make birdies out there.”
Pulk-Dean registered a runner-up showing for a second consecutive year, having fallen short in a playoff to 2014 champions Matt Chandler and Brandon LaCroix.
Burton-Sargent were two under par for the day through 13 holes. They rallied to reel off three straight birdies from Nos. 14-16 to move to within a shot of the lead, but would get no closer.
“We were sort of the no-name team. There were a lot of great teams out there who’d won or been close to winning. We just had a blast out there and that’s one of the big reasons we both play,” said Burton, who is admittedly grateful to be on the competitive golf stage again after battling hip problems over the past three years.
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