Newsom, Utley share five-shot lead at Virginia Mid-Amateur
Roger Newsom
Roger Newsom
SUFFOLK, Va. — Players at the 39th Virginia Mid-Amateur Championship had a common enemy at Cedar Point Country Club on Saturday: The elements.

Early in the second round on dreary Tidewater day, the wind swirled. Rain spit intermittently. Lift, clean and place rules were in play. Competitors navigated those conditions well enough, but no one was prepared for the deluge that awaited around 1:15 p.m.

Rain came down in sheets, pooled on greens and forced a one-hour, 20-minute delay. In the end, only four players managed to shoot even par or better, including Roger Newsom and Jordan Utley, who share the 36-hole lead after each shot an aggregate 4-under-par 140 over the event’s first two days.

Newsom (Elizabeth Manor G&CC, Virginia Beach) and Utley (Independence GC, Richmond) are five shots clear of Matt Chandler (Hunting Hills CC, Hardy), the 2012 Mid-Amateur champion, and Buck Brittain (Fincastle on the Mountain, Tazewell), both of whom sit at 1-over-par 145. Danny Yates (Shenandoah Valley CC, Marshall) rounded out the top 5 after posting a two-day 147. Utley, Newsom and Chandler posted the only sub-par rounds Saturday, each shooting 2-under 70.

“Everything doesn’t really change from a swing perspective,” said Utley, who had three birdies and one bogey in the second round. “But you can lose focus. I don’t know if you make excuses. You don’t want to be out there. Mentally, that’s the biggest challenge, when you get the weather like the way it was. It was very challenging for three or four holes before they called it. It’s been a long time since I’ve played in conditions like that.”

Two of the steadiest players on the tournament’s first day, Newsom and Utley, handled the terrible conditions better than most. Newsom made double bogey on No. 11 and bogeyed No. 18, but he made up for it with five birdies. He started on the 10th tee and had a clean card on his back nine, making a pair of birdies and seven pars.

“I think you had to just double down in focus,” Newsom said. “It didn’t hurt me that my brother and I, like I told you, were in Ireland a month ago. Two of the days were just like this. It was like going through basic training.”

Moments after his round ended, Newsom returned to the driving range and hit about a dozen balls while sideways rain and wind pelted his face, looking to work out some inconsistencies. Newsom skipped the Delta Dental State Open of Virginia and the Eastern Amateur, partly because of a nagging hip and lower back injury, but also because, as he described it, he found himself in a slump.

A trip to Keswick Hall for his wedding anniversary proved therapeutic for both his mental state and his golf game.

“I went over and called up Rob McNamara [the PGA Head Professional at Charlottesville’s Farmington Country Club] and said, ‘Can you help me?’” Newsom said. “He spent two days with me, and it’s one of those things where you try to make a change, you keep trying, and finally, you start to see it working. He was able to help me, I think, a fair bit.”

Justin Young (Ballyhack GC, Roanoke), who shared the first-day lead with Newsom and Utley, struggled to an 8-over 80 on Saturday and fell out of the top 10. His round included two double bogeys and just one birdie. Lane Hite (Kinderton CC, Clarksville) was the only other player to shoot even par, finishing with a 72.

For Chandler, the key to getting back on track was eliminating mistakes. He made six bogeys in Friday’s first round, but three birdies helped him shoot 75. He made four birdies Saturday but had only two bogeys.

“I got up and down a few times, and with the way the conditions are, you’re going to have to do that to shoot under par,” Chandler said. “I’m pleased with 70. I would have taken that before I started. I was thinking 70 would have gotten me a little closer to the lead. … Other than a few three-putts and hitting my own golf cart yesterday [a penalty], I’ve played pretty decent, other than a couple of bone-headed moves yesterday. Today was pretty solid.”

Utley said he’s never played with Newsom at a VSGA championship event. Both players are seeking their first Mid-Amateur title.

“Roger can play,” Utley said. “We’ve played in the same field for many, many years, but never together. Roger’s Roger. He’s going to play his game, and I’m going to play mine. … I have to put a cover over who I’m playing and just focus on myself.”

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