PENHOOK, VA (September 16, 2016) -- There’s a certain comfort in being home. Franklin County, and more specifically, The Water’s Edge Country Club, is home turf for Matt Chandler, who is attempting to defend his title at the Virginia Mid-Amateur Championship.
He knows the course well. As a teenager, he spent endless afternoons practicing and playing the course, which meanders around the shoreline of picturesque Smith Mountain Lake. He says Water’s Edge golf professional Ed Currin is “like a father to me. He was the pro at Waterfront when I started playing. He’d pick me up in the mornings and take me home in the evenings. I just know a lot of people here. It’s a fun place for me.”
There’s a flip side to that comfort, though.
“Everywhere I’ve gone the last week, people have put the pressure on me,” Chandler said. “They’re like, ‘You’re a lock. You’ve got this.’ I think about it a lot, but once I get on the course, I stop thinking about it.”
Chandler (Hunting Hills CC) showed that focus on Friday in the first round of the 40th VSGA Mid-Amateur Championship. He fired a free-and-easy, bogey-free 66 on the par-72 track to take a three-stroke lead into Saturday’s second round.
Chandler wasn’t the only player to feel at home at The Water’s Edge. Vincent Nadeau (Spring Creek GC) was a member at the club in his younger years, and his mother still lives in a house along the 18th hole. Nadeau finished with four birdies and a bogey to finish with a 3-under 69 and remain within striking distance of the lead.
“I drove it pretty well and putted decently,” Nadeau said. “I never really was in any trouble. It was a pretty easy round.”
Two past champions also broke par on a cloudy, cool Friday. Dan Hosek (Fort Belvoir GC), who won the 2007 title at Belle Haven CC in Alexandria, shot a 1-under 71, as did three-time champion Nick Biesecker (Keswick GC).
A host of players are six shots back of Chandler after shooting even-par 72, a group that includes Harold Dill III (South Riding GC), Lee Fisher (Poplar Grove GC), Kevin Dillard (Army Navy CC), Parker Wingfield (James River CC), Dudley Payne III (Fauquier Springs CC), Kyle Bailey (Roanoke CC), Adam Horton (Elizabeth Manor G&CC), Buck Brittain (The Virginian GC) and Justin Young (Ballyhack GC).
After Saturday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 45 players and ties for Sunday’s third and final round.
Chandler used strong iron play to post his 6-under score. The par-4 8th hole was typical of his day. He drove the ball into the rough just right of the fairway, recovered and hit a dazzling approach to within three feet and tapped home the birdie putt. He only bombed home one lengthy birdie putt, a 25 footer on No. 6.
“I really hit the ball well, and I didn’t put any pressure on myself at all, which is really nice,” Chandler said. “To shoot 66, I’m happy. If you would have given me that when I started, I would have said, ‘Absolutely.’”
Nadeau rolled home a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 8 and made a critical par save on No. 10.
“I was right and I hit a tree, and I ended up short of the green,” he said. “I putted from off the green and it was probably 30 feet short. But I made that coming back. That saved me.”
Like most participating in the Mid-Amateur, which is for players ages 25 and older, time constraints due to work and home life keep Chandler from practicing on a regular basis. That’s a big reason why the Mid-Am is such an important event on his calendar.
“This is really the working man’s event,” he said. “I can’t compete against those college kids who play every day. My golf time is very limited, which for most people here, that’s probably true. When you’re playing against someone who practices every day when you only play maybe nine holes a week, it’s tough.”
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