SUFFOLK, Va. — Keith Decker, who has won the VSGA Mid-Amateur Championship a record seven times, knows good golf when he sees it. And after playing with Justin Young in the first round of the 39th Virginia Mid-Amateur Championship on Friday, he had seen enough to make a strong proclamation.
“He’s the best player in the state right now,” Decker said.
Young (Ballyhack GC, Roanoke) backed Decker’s words up with one of the strongest rounds of the day, a 2-under 70 that put him in a three-way tie with Jordan Utley (Independence GC, Richmond) and Roger Newsom (Elizabeth Manor G&CC, Virginia Beach) atop the championship leaderboard.
Young, Utley and Newsom were the only players to post sub-par rounds on a blustery, dreary day at Cedar Point Country Club. The three are two strokes clear of a group of five players, all of whom shot even-par 72: Buck Brittain (Fincastle on the Mountain, Tazewell); Lars Lassen (James River CC, Newport News); Craig Groenendaal (Laurel Hill GC, Chantilly); Danny Yates (Shenandoah Valley CC, Marshall); and Steve Williams (Eaglewood GC, Yorktown).
The tournament will be cut to the top 45 players and ties after Saturday’s second round.
Young, who will compete next week in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, rallied from a double bogey on the par-3 5th hole and rattled off five birdies in his next nine holes to get his round on track. He capped a run of three straight birdies by making a 30-foot uphill putt on No. 14.
“I just started playing solid golf there, rolling the ball in, making some good putts,” said Young, who was the low amateur at the 2015 Delta Dental State Open of Virginia on his home course at Ballyhack. “I was 3 under going into 15 and the rough kind of caught my club and blocked it right. But other than that, just solid. In these conditions, I was hitting the ball solid, and that’s what you need to do.”
Newsom, who played in last week’s Crump Cup at Pine Valley in New Jersey, said Friday’s wind conditions reminded him of a recent overseas golf trip he took with his brother.
“I went to play in Ireland with my brother Timmy about three weeks ago, and we were joking, that this feels like we’re back in Ireland,” said Newsom, who hit every fairway but No. 18 and finished with four birdies and two bogeys on the scorecard. “You had to kind of pick your target, play it, and count on the wind to move it over.”
Utley, who didn’t play in last year’s Mid-Amateur, said his plan was to go for it on Cedar Point’s par-5 holes, and his round played out just the way he envisioned. He birdied each of the par 5s and bogeyed the par-3 5th and par-4 18th holes.
“The game plan from the start was fairways and green, and if you can attack on the par 5s, you can do it,” Utley said. “So that was successful. I was just very steady all day. Under these conditions, you have to be.
“[The wind], it’s there. You’ve got to be thinking about it. At the same time, you can’t let it get too much in your head. It’s just another factor to consider.”
James Gallagher (Tidewater Amateur Golf Tour, Yorktown) and Parker Wingfield (James River CC, Richmond) both shot 1-over 73s to round out the top 10 heading into Saturday’s scheduled second round. None of the three co-leaders have ever won the event, but there are five past champions in the field.
Of those five, Scott Shingler (Evergreen CC, Haymarket) posted the best score, a 2-over 74. Allen Barber (James River CC, Yorktown) and Matt Chandler (Hunting Hills CC, Hardy) both shot 75. Decker (Chatmoss CC, Martinsville) shot 76 and Dan Hosek (Fort Belvior GC, Alexandria) posted a 78.
While wind was the main concern Friday, rain is the big threat to the rest of the weekend. Area forecasts are calling for 100 percent chance of rain on Saturday, which could wreak havoc with the tournament schedule, making a good score in Friday’s first round even more important.
“They’re calling for two inches of rain tomorrow, so that could be a potential washout,” said Young, who finished third in the 2014 Mid-Amateur and was runner-up in 2012. “And who knows what Sunday is. You never know. But I’m going to treat it as a three-day tournament.”
View results for Virginia Mid-Amateur Golf Championship