Virginia State Four Ball: Decker, Stinnett again

HAYMARKET Va. (May 12, 2007)-- Though it was a new year at the Virginia State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship, a familiar theme played out yet again: the commonwealth’s top-ranked amateur Keith Decker (Martinsville) and his partner were atop the leader board at the finish of the event.

Decker teamed with Amherst’s Ryan Stinnett to match a final-round best score of 7-under-par 65, blow past a bunched leader board, record a three-shot victory and successfully defend their ’06 title. Following a first round 8-under 64, they concluded the championship at 15-under-par 129. Northern Virginians Jim Nirich (Catlett)-Dan Hosek (Alexandria) and Kevin Dillard (McLean)-Stan Williams (Arlington) tied for second at 12-under 132. Fueled by a bogey-free round that included seven birdies Nirich-Hosek also had 7-under 65, while Dillard-Williams carded a final round 67.

How dominant has Decker been in the event as of late? The Decker-Stinnett contingent became the first team to win repeat titles since 2001-02 when Decker and Manakin-Sabot’s David Partridge claimed back-to-back championships. Decker has now captured five Four-Balls in the past nine years.

He previously was a part of winning teams at the event in 1999, 2001 and 2002 with Partridge prior to teaming with Stinnett last year.

“My whole goal at my old age [47] is to win VSGA events, so this feels good,” said Decker, the top-ranked amateur in the VSGA player rankings over the past six-plus years.

To say that Decker-Stinnett got off to a hot start in the final round might be something of an understatement. The rundown: Tied for the lead after the opening day, they birdied the first three holes and five of the first seven.

With back-to-back birdies on Nos. 6 and 7, Decker-Stinnett gained a measure of separation from any potential pursuers. Decker got up and down out of a greenside bunker at the par-5 first and made putts of 18 and 10 feet at Nos. 2 and 3 to ignite the birdie barrage.

Stinnett then stuck a 7-iron approach to 2 feet at the par-3 sixth hole and Decker birdied the par-5 seventh. After Decker two-putted for par from 50-plus feet at the par-3 ninth, they owned a three-shot lead after nine that they would not relinquish. Playing a grouping behind the leaders, Dillard-Williams reeled off three straight birdies at Nos. 6-8 to trail by three strokes.

Stinnett flew the putting surface on his third shot at the par-5 10th hole, but his ball found a good lie and he got up and down for birdie, holing a 6-footer. Decker made a 12-footer for birdie at the par-4 11th hole to complete a pivotal run that saw them play a six-hole stretch (Nos. 6-11) in four under. Decker added another birdie at the par-5 16th hole, meaning the tandem played the layout’s five par 5s in four under for the day and nine under for the two-day championship.

On a day when scoring conditions were more difficult than they were during the first round, Decker’s ball striking continued to shine throughout the round.

“He’s in every single hole. He and [reigning SunTrust State Open of Virginia champion] Faber [Jamerson, a pro at Poplar Grove Golf Club in Amherst] hit the driver better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Stinnett said. “[Decker] putts unreal. With a 15-footer, it’s like there is a 70 percent chance of it going in. My mindset is to make a few birdies and let him do what he does.”

At the VSGA Four-Ball Championship that means record victories. The victory brings Decker’s “major” VSGA titles to 17, having now won a record five VSGA Four-Balls, three State Opens, two State Ams and an unprecedented seven Mid-Ams.

--Story courtesy VSGA

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