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  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