Matt Chandler comes from behind to win Virginia Mid-Amateur
Matt Chandler, 2015 champion (VSGA photo)
Matt Chandler, 2015 champion (VSGA photo)
SUFFOLK, Va. — After Saturday’s second round of the 39th Virginia Mid-Amateur Championship, Matt Chandler wasn’t unhappy with shooting 70. He was disappointed, though, that the strong round on a day filled with miserable weather wasn’t enough for him to cut into the tournament lead.

He made two points after that round. One, he said he would probably have to go pretty low on Sunday to put any pressure on co-leaders Jordan Utley and Roger Newsom. And secondly, he noted that he had yet to roll home a long putt in his first two rounds, something that would have to change if he was going to make a move.

Both points came into play in Sunday’s final round on a sunnier day at Cedar Point Country Club. Chandler (Hunting Hills CC, Hardy) drained a 30-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole in Sunday’s round, part of a run of five straight birdies that helped him surge into the lead. He posted a final-round 66, tying the tournament closing round record, and claimed a two-stroke victory over Utley for his second championship in four years.

“Once I made the 30 footer on 12, I could see it,” Chandler said. “It was time to either take off or crash.”

Chandler opened with a 75 on Friday and entered Sunday’s round five shots behind the co-leaders. After 12, he made three straight birdies and suddenly held a two-shot lead. Chandler finished with a three-day aggregate 211 and ended the day holding the M.W. “Dyke” Peebles Trophy.

“I was thinking in my head that I needed to get to about 7 under for the day, just to put some sort of pressure on them,” Chandler said. “But, really, I didn’t have a clue.”

Utley (Independence Golf Club, Richmond) had a clue that Hardy was making a run, hearing about it from a rules official after coming off the 12th green. He was paired with Newsom (Elizabeth Manor G&CC, Virginia Beach) and fourth-place finisher Buck Brittain (Fincastle on the Mountain, Tazewell) in the final group, one starting time behind Chandler’s threesome.

Utley scrambled for much of the front nine, twice getting up and down out of bunkers to save par before surrendering a stroke with a bogey on the par-3 9th. He made the turn at even par, a stroke behind Newsom. Utley made par on the first three holes on the back side while Newsom made a pair of bogeys, and Utley had a short-lived lead.

But he never got on the sort of roll needed to keep up with Chandler, who posted the only sub-70 score of the tournament.

“There’s always going to be some disappointment,” said Utley, the runner-up in the 2014 VSGA Amateur Championship. “I don’t really like being the bridesmaid. I thought I was ready to play. I felt comfortable throughout the entire day. But at the same time, you’ve still got to make putts to put pressure on the other guys and say, ‘Hey, this guy isn’t going to back down.’ I just didn’t do that today.”

Newsom, a two-time State Open of Virginia champion and the winner of the 2014 Senior Open of Virginia, had the best chance of catching Chandler at the end. Chandler had a birdie putt on the par-5 17th lip out and he three-putted for bogey on No. 18, leaving Newsom, who got back into it with birdies at 14 and 15, a sliver of hope. Knowing he had to attack, Newsom tried to reach No. 17 in two but ended up with a horrible lie in a greenside bunker.

With a near impossible lie, Newsom tried to power the ball toward the hole but flew the green. He couldn’t get up and down for par from the pine needles behind the green and went to 18 needing a birdie to tie. Again, Newsom attacked, but his approach to a back left hole location sailed left into the water, ending his hopes for a title.

“I was trying to make birdie on 17 and birdie on 18, and it just didn’t work out,” Newsom said.

Chandler, Utley and Newsom were the only players to finish the tournament under par. Brittain shot a 1-over 218. Justin Young (Ballyhack GC, Roanoke) and Scott Shingler (Evergreen CC, Haymarket) tied for fifth at 220. Keith Decker (Chatmoss CC, Martinsville), Ben Beach (Hermitage CC, Glen Allen) and Danny Yates (Shenandoah Valley GC, Marshall) tied for seventh at 221.

Jimmy Delp (Laurel Hill GC, Falmouth), Parker Wingfield (James River CC, Richmond) and James Gallagher (Tidewater Amateur Golf Tour, Yorktown) tied for 10th at 222.

The day however, belonged to Chandler, a former mini-tour player who regained his amateur status in 2012 and was participating in just his second VSGA event of the year. He became the seventh multiple VSGA Mid-Amateur winner. Unlike his win in 2012 at Hidden Valley Country Club in Salem, he improved each day. At Hidden Valley, he rode an opening-round 61 to a three-shot victory. At Cedar Point, he had to grind his way out of a huge hole to claim the championship trophy.

“Hidden Valley wasn’t my home course, but I’ve played it a lot,” said Chandler, who turned pro after graduating from Franklin County High School. “To win one outside of the bubble, I guess you can say, is nice.”

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