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Virginia State Junior: Paolini by a stroke

BLACKSBURG, Va. (July 31, 2008)--Brinson Paolini, 17, of Virginia Beach shot a bogey-free final round of 6-under-par 66 to post a comeback win at the 56th Virginia State Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship, which concluded today at Blacksburg Country Club (6,671 yards, par 36-36—72).

In recording a repeat victory in the event, Paolini concluded the championship at 12-under-par 204, compiling lowest 54-hole aggregate total since the VSGA Junior Am went to all stroke play in 1964. Paolini, this summer’s VSGA Amateur champion, also became the first player to ever hold both titles in the same year.

Local golfer Matt Harman, 16, of Roanoke finished a shot back at 11-under 205 after carding a final-round 67. Meanwhile, Stanardsville’s Michael Moyers, 17, delivered the lowest round in recent VSGA Junior Am history, firing a last-day 10-under 62 to close action two back, along with recent U.S. Junior Am finalist Evan Beck, 17, of Virginia Beach, who shot a final-day 4-under 68.

With the triumph, Paolini became the championship’s first repeat winner since Blackstone’s Cameron Yancey won consecutive titles in 1995-96. Trailing Harman by a shot with eight holes to play, Paolini birdied two of the final three holes to take home the F.J.D. Mackay trophy.

“I kept telling myself, ‘This is why you grind – to have a chance to win coming down the stretch,’ ” said Paolini, a rising senior at Frank W. Cox High School. “I’ve always played golf because I love it and I want to win. Winning never gets old, there’s no doubt about it. It sure feels good.”

Playing in the final grouping for the first time at the Junior, Harman began his round with an opening bogey, but steadied himself and rattled off three birdies in a four-hole stretch at Nos. 2, 4 and 5 and added two more at Nos. 8 and 9 to get to 10 under for the championship and take the lead headed to the back nine.

Paolini, who started the day at six under, tallied outward half birdies at Nos. 5 and 9 to turn in eight under for the championship. Playing in the final grouping together, both competitors converted birdie putts at No. 10, with Harman holing a 25-footer to get to 11 under, while Paolini answered by draining a 15-footer of his own to remain two off the pace.

“To make that on top of him gave me the momentum to play a good back side,” Paolini said.

Harman made bogey at No. 12, before Paolini tied for the lead at 10 under by knocking in a 12-footer at the par-4 14th hole. Paolini took the lead for good at the par-4 16th, knocking in a 25-footer straight up the hill to go to 11 under.

“How’d he make that?,” Harman smiled. “I knew after that it was going to be tough.”

At the par-4 finishing hole, first to play, Paolini stuffed his wedge approach to 4 feet to the right of the hole location. Harman answered right back, lofting his short iron approach to within 18 inches to set up what would be a tap-in birdie.

Facing a subtly breaking putt, Paolini played the break perfectly and knocked the right to left slider in the center to shoot four under on the inward half.

“I played great on the back nine and Matt played spectacular today,” Paolini said. “I was trailing the whole day and playing catch up, but I wasn’t making any mistakes.”

Paolini recorded his lowest round of the three-day championship on the last day after firing 71-67 the first two rounds.

“It’s hard to beat a 66,” Harman said. “Twelve under in three days is incredible. I knew I was going to have to make that [second shot] on No. 18 and I almost did. I’ll take it, though.”

Paolini, who verballed to Duke University in the spring, continues to add to what has been a breakthrough ’08 campaign. In addition to becoming the youngest VSGA Amateur champion in seven decades in late-June, Paolini’s summer has also included finishing tied for third at the Eastern Amateur Championship and he recently qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship, set for Aug. 18-24 at Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, N.C.

A rising junior at Cave Spring High School, Harman handled the final round pressure and his 205 three-day total would’ve put him right at the top any other year.

“I came into the tournament wanting to get my name out there and for me, that’s my main accomplishment right now,” he said.

Starting the final round at even par and seven shots off leader John David Hunter’s (Bluefield) lead, Moyers vaulted up the leader board by making 10 birdies. The two-time defending VSGA Junior Match Play champion converted three birdies in an opening four-hole stretch, making 20-footers from the back of the hole location at Nos. 1 and 4 and he added another birdie at the par-5 second. Moyers birdied four of the final five holes on the outward half at Nos. 5, 6, 8 and sank his longest putt in that stretch at No. 9, holing a 12-footer.

For Moyers, after turning in 7-under 29 it was hard not to track his round the rest of the way.

“I played the whole back nine with shaking hands,” he said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

More red numbers awaited. Moyers was eight under after making a birdie at the par-3 11th and made consecutive birdies at Nos. 16 (20 feet) and 17, converting an up-and-down with a 3-foot birdie putt. His best round in competition was a shot off the competitive course record, owned by amateurs Lanto Griffin (Blacksburg) and Adam Webb (Ridgeway) as well as former Virginia Tech standout turned Nationwide Tour player Brendon De Jonge.

Results follow from the Blacksburg Country Club (6,671 yards, par 36-36—72):

Brinson Paolini (Virginia Beach), 71-67-66—204 (overall champion) Matt Harman (Roanoke), 69-69-67—205 (first in the 16-18 age division) Michael Moyers (Stanardsville), 72-72-62—206 (second in the 16-18 age division) Evan Beck (Virginia Beach), 68-70-68—206 (third in the 16-18 age division) Jack Wilkes (Roanoke), 72-69-69—210 (fourth in the 16-18 age division) John David Hunter (Bluefield), 70-67-74—211 (fifth in the 16-18 age division) Paul Woodson (Powhatan), 72-69-71—212 Nicholas Austin (Midlothian), 74-64-74—212 Allan Day (Midlothian), 70-72-71—213 David Hudgins (Hardy), 73-72-69—214 Bryce Chalkley (Richmond), 67-77-70—214 (first in the 14-15 age division) Jason Schumacher (Glen Allen), 75-72-69—216 (second in the 14-15 age division) Weston Eklund (Charlottesville), 69-75-72—216 Jordan Patrick (Abingdon), 70-74-72—216 Matthew Ball Jr. (Richmond), 71-73-72—216 Benford Hunter (Suffolk), 72-71-73—216 Stewart Surratt (Harrisonburg), 71-74-72—217 John Dawson (Chesapeake), 72-72-73—217 Jake Mondy (Blacksburg), 76-72-70—218 (third in the 14-15 age division) Jack Adkins (Martinsville), 74-74-70—218 Josh Apple (Leesburg), 75-70-74—219 Wesley Liu (Herndon), 73-70-76—219 Brian Keith (Centreville), 73-75-72—220 Tyler Wingo (Fairfax), 73-73-75—221 (fourth in the 14-15 age division) Zack Hall (Burgess), 75-72-76—221 Ronnie Fultz III (Fieldale), 74-72-75—221 Joey Curley (Vienna), 74-78-70—222 Corbin Pillow (Phenix), 75-73-74—222 Parker Davis (Salem), 72-75-75—222 (fifth in the 14-15 age division) Andrew McCracken (Virginia Beach), 74-72-77—223 Royce Kim (Yorktown), 76-83-74—223 Tim Ritter (Centreville), 74-76-73—223 Brandon Luxenburg (Burke), 74-78-72—224 Maclain Huge (Lovettsville), 80-70-74—224 Jesse Dillon (Chesapeake), 75-72-77—224 Ross Sumner (Callao), 79-72-75—226 Michael Wade (Floyd), 75-77-74—226 Casey Thompson (Stephens City), 75-75-76—226 Chamberlin Hill (Middleburg), 75-74-77—226 Mitch Bagley (Midlothian), 77-69-80—226 Dylan Jensen (Martinsville), 74-75-78—227 Michael McLean (Midlothian), 73-83-71—227 Patrick Leisure (Charlottesville), 73-78-76—227 Hunter Lewis (Newport News), 71-81-76—228 Ryan Rettburg (Front Royal), 75-76-77—228 Tanner Carbaugh (Eggleston), 76-75-77—228 Blake Carter (Bassett), 76-79-73—228 Taylor Dichiara (Chesapeake), 74-74-80—228 Tyler Kee (Powhatan), 76-79-73—228 Austin Gray (Midlothian), 74-79-76—229 Jonathan Dove (Collinsville), 74-76-79—229 Adam Ball (Richmond), 78-79-72—229 Wade Wawner (Virginia Beach), 79-78-72—229 Brian Jaeger (McLean), 78-77-75—230 Zachary Henry (Front Royal), 79-78-73—230 Trip Bose (Norfolk), 77-77-77—231 Bryan Giles (Williamsburg), 80-73-79—232 Matthew Astorino (Fairfax Station), 75-79-78—232 Carl Brendes (Ashburn), 74-80-78—232 Connor Walters (Salem), 77-75-81—233 Ryan Davis (Salem), 79-78-77—234 Joseph Cantor (Richmond), 85-75-74—234 Nick Funk (Williamsburg), 79-76-80—235 Keaton Scanlan (Midlothian), 79-78-78—235 Zeke Shaffer (Radford), 79-80-76—235 Parker Wingfield (Newport News), 79-79-78—236 Jack DeBell (Centreville), 80-80-76—236 Tanner Foutz (Mechanicsville), 83-79-74—236 Jordan Plahn (Chesterfield), 81-77-79—237 Preston Leigh (Suffolk), 79-77-82—238 Matt Davenport (Glen Allen), 80-76-82—238 Brian Critzer (Richmond), 77-79-82—238 John Marconyak (Virginia Beach), 81-75-83—239 Korey Watts (Buchanan), 81-81-77—239 John Michael King (Roanoke), 81-74-85—240 Kyle Vandeven (Great Falls), 80-79-81—240 Dawson Hobbs (Midlothian), 80-79-81—240 Trey Smith (Virginia Beach), 77-83-81—241 Michael Swope (Chester), 82-78-81—241 Sam Dailey (Forest), 75-83-84—242 Hunter Weaver (Orange), 82-78-83—243 Seth Nooe (Williamsburg), 77-84-82—243 Boomer Malanchuk II (Arlington), 76-80-88—244 Robert Hanna (Fort Defiance), 79-81-87—247 Trevor Times (Williamsburg), 80-85-82—247 Mikey Cantor (Glen Allen), 76-76-WD (injury) Matthew Teachey (Richmond), 81-73-WD Zach Smith (Lawrenceville), 79-82-WD Zachary Verses (Great Falls), 77-WD

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