PENHOOK, VA (September 17, 2016) -- Matt Chandler doesn’t have to reach too far back in his memory bank to know how precarious a 36-hole lead can be in a 54-hole championship. After posting a 3-under-par 69 Saturday in the second round of the 40th Virginia Mid-Amateur Championship, held at The Water’s Edge Country Club, Chandler’s lead on the rest of the field moved from three strokes to five.
Game over, right?
Not quite. Chandler was in the penultimate grouping at last year’s championship at Cedar Point Country Club in Suffolk, five shots behind co-leaders Jordan Utley and Roger Newsom. While Utley, Newsom and Buck Brittain battled in the final group, Chandler went on a back-nine tear, a run of five straight birdies pushing him into the lead. He won the tournament by two strokes.
So he’ll take nothing for granted as he prepares for Sunday’s final round.
“I’ve got to play like I’m not in the lead, honestly,” Chandler said.
Chandler (Hunting Hills CC) posted a 9-under 135 over the first two days of the championship. Chandler’s most likely potential foils will be in the final grouping with him. Vincent Nadeau (Spring Creek GC) followed his first-round 69 with a second-round 71, putting him five shots behind at 140. Adam Horton (Elizabeth Manor G&CC) shot an even-par 72 in Friday’s first round but posted a 3-under 69 Saturday to stay in contention, six shots back of Chandler.
“I would have liked to have picked up a little bit of ground,” Horton said. “But I didn’t lose any, so that’s a positive.”
Seven-time Mid-Amateur champion Keith Decker (Chatmoss CC) also shot 69, leaving him seven shots back after a two-day 142. Jeffrey Long (Evergreen CC) and Kyle Bailey (Roanoke CC) are tied for fifth, eight shots back after posting 1-under 143s over the first two days.
Ben Dull (Hidden Valley CC) shot the low round of the day Saturday, a second-round 68 that moved him into a tie for seventh. Dull shaved eight strokes off his opening-round 76.
Chandler was bogey free for the first 23 holes of the tournament. The streak ended with a bogey on the par-5 5th hole, and Chandler said he was lucky the result wasn’t worse. He had to roll in a 20-foot putt just to save bogey. He also bogeyed No. 7 but got back on track with a birdie on No. 12. He made birdies on No. 15 and No. 17 to get to the clubhouse at 3 under for the day.
“I was just kind of idling until I made a nice putt on 12 to get to 1 under,” Chandler said. “I made a few birdies coming home, which helped. But I didn’t feel like I played that great, honestly.”
Nadeau made two birdies and a bogey for his 71 and said he could never get anything going on the greens.
“I actually hit it better today, but I just couldn’t make any putts,” Nadeau said. “I had 10 feet on 8, which was my 17th hole, for birdie, and I three-putted it. Tough way to end.”
Horton, who teamed with Tyler Gulliksen to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship earlier this year, made five birdies and one bogey to stay in contention. He’s been stronger on the back than the front over the tournament’s two days, playing the inward nine at 3 under with no bogeys.
Both Horton and Nadeau know they’ll have to post a low number to put the heat on Chandler on Sunday.
“Matt’s a heck of a player,” Horton said. “He’s won this thing twice. I can’t go into tomorrow expecting him to come back to me. I’m going to have to go try and catch him. We’ll see how it all works out.”
View results for Virginia Mid-Amateur Golf Championship