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Medalist and top-seed Michael Brennan <br>(VSGA Photo)
Medalist and top-seed Michael Brennan
(VSGA Photo)
ALDIE, VA (June 28, 2017) - Scott Shingler remembers playing golf when he was 15 years old. He doesn’t remember playing the golf that young Michael Brennan has played over two days of stroke-play qualifying at the 104th VSGA Amateur Championship.

“When I was his age, I had a hard time breaking 90,” said the 45-year-old Shingler. “I don’t even think I had broken 85 yet.”

The 15-year-old Brennan (River Creek Club), who won last week’s VSGA Junior Match Play Championship at Spotswood Country Club, did a whole lot more than just break 85 at The Club at Creighton Farms. He followed a first-round 70 with a second-round 68 on Wednesday, his two-day 138 giving him stroke-play qualifying medalist honors by a shot over Shingler (Dominion Valley CC).

Brennan didn’t shoot a quiet 68, either. Starting off the back, he jarred a shot from the fairway 91 yards away for eagle. On the back nine, he dunked another shot, holing out again from the fairway on the par-3 7th from 120 yards out for his second eagle of the round.

“It was a pretty special round,” Brennan said. “One that I’ll never forget.”Shingler, who led after 18 holes, posted an even-par 72 and will be the No. 2 seed when match play begins Thursday. He shot 139 over the two days of qualifying and finished with four birdies and four bogeys on Wednesday. His reward: A matchup with Virginia Golf Hall of Famer Keith Decker (Chatmoss CC).

“I didn’t hit it close enough to the hole to have very many good looks at birdie,” Shingler said. “I just plodded my way around and made a bunch of pars. Just couldn’t get it close enough to have good runs at birdie.”

Teddy Zinsner (Belle Haven CC), Drew Brockwell (GC at the Highlands) and Vishal Giri (Chantilly National G&CC) tied for third at 2-under 142 to round out the top five. Jordan Utley (Independence GC), Ryan Douglass (River Creek Club) and Ji Soo Park (1757 GC) tied for sixth at 1-under 143.

Park is a three-time VSGA Amateur finalist, and Utley reached the final in 2014 at Spring Creek GC. Utley shaved seven strokes off his first-round 75, returned 68 and surged into the top 10. He credited a change back to his “old trusty” putter for the improvement.

Outside of playing in the Richmond Golf Association’s Amateur two weeks ago, Utley hasn’t played a lot of competitive golf this summer. Increased practice has helped, though.

“We moved, and I live five minutes away now from Independence,” Utley said. “It’s allowed me to get out and practice for 45 minutes here, 45 minutes there. That’s a huge benefit just to stay somewhat close to the game. You’re sitting in a desk chair all day, but if you can sneak out first thing in the morning or when my son goes to sleep, those 45 minutes are priceless to help you get better.”

Mark Lawrence Jr. (Hermitage CC) earned the final spot in the match-play field by winning a five-for-one playoff with a birdie on No. 1. Lawrence admitted there was a huge sense of relief after scratching his way into the match-play field. He followed a first-round 73 with a 5-over 77, joining Tyler Wallace (The Club at Kingsmill), David Rabil (Old Hickory GC), Addison Coll (Washington G&CC) and Craig Mason (1757 GC) at 150.

“Honestly, I played better than I scored this week,” Lawrence said.

To point, he made a 10 on the par-5 3rd hole in Wednesday’s round after getting stuck in a pot bunker and struggling mightily to find his way out. He played the rest of his round at even par to keep his hopes alive for making match play. That 10 wasn’t the worst hole score he had ever posted in a competitive round.

“Actually, I had a 14, and I’ll never forget it,” the rising Virginia Tech junior said. “I was playing with Griffin [Clark] and his dad was following us in the city junior, and I put like three balls in a row out of bounds. I kept hitting driver, because I was maybe 11. And Mr. Clark says, ‘hit a damn iron.’”

The match-play field features a strong mix of mid-amateurs; college players or recent college graduates; high schoolers or recent high-school graduates, and Park, who will join the mid-am ranks when he turns 25 next month.

Among those who advanced to match play were Brandon Cigna (Laurel Hill GC), who was part of a side who reached the final at the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship; 2016 VSGA Amateur semifinalist Trey Wren (Cedar Point CC); and 2012 VSGA Amateur finalist Buck Brittain (The Virginian GC).

“I think it’ll be a fun match-play course,” Zinsner said of Creighton Farms. “There are a lot of good pins and a lot of options. Almost every par 5 has a lot of risk reward to it. Holes like 14, the short par-4, that’ll be a good match-play hole. I do think it will be really good for match play.”

One notable player to miss play was 2016 champion Joey Lane (Reston National GC). The recent Virginia Tech graduate shot 76-79 and tied for 55th.

His absence ensures there will be a new champion. Brennan, a rising sophomore at Tuscarora High School, is looking to add his name to the very short list of players who have won both the Junior Match Play and VSGA Amateur Championships. Chris McCartin won the Junior Match Play in 2002 and the Amateur in 2006.

To do both in the same year? That would certainly be unprecedented. But Brennan is riding a surge of confidence after winning four matches against a tough field last week in Harrisonburg, including a victory against Brockwell, who finished inside the top five this week.

“Match play is always so much fun,” Brennan said. “It’s hole by hole. When you’re up, you just have to keep going. You can’t let them try to sneak back in, because when it comes down to 16 and 17, anything can happen.”

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