Virginia Senior: Green rallies twice

HOT SPRINGS, Va. (Aug. 29, 2008) –– Tazewell’s Charles E. Green III rallied for a pair of victories on the final day of match play to win the 61st Virginia State Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship, which concluded Friday at The Homestead’s Cascades Course (6,409 yards for seniors and 5,832 yards for super seniors ages 65-and-older, par 35-35—70).

In the morning semifinals, trailing 2-down with four to play against stroke play medalist Pat Tallent (Vienna), Green won the final four holes to score a 2-up victory. In the finals, he answered a 3-down deficit with four holes remaining to central Virginian Ward Hamilton (Manakin-Sabot) before triumphing in a 22-hole marathon.

Green, a semifinalist in 2006, took home his first VSGA Senior Am title in the longest match in terms of the number of holes played in the event’s history.

“This feels great. Right now, it hasn’t even sunk in,” Green said. “I was just trying to stay in the match with [Hamilton] – the same thing in the match against with Pat.”

With the usual match play concessions, both Green (three under) and Tallent (one under) were the stroke play equivalent of under par in their well-played semifinal encounter. Green squared the match against Tallent with consecutive wins at Nos. 15 and 16 after his opponent missed the putting surface both times.

Green won his third consecutive hole with a birdie at the par-5 17th, getting up and down to a tight hole location from in back of the green to take a 1-up advantage going to the last. At No. 18, both semifinalists found the right greenside bunker and Tallent left his second shot in the bunker before eventually conceding the hole to Green.

In reaching the finals for the first time, Hamilton ousted second-seeded Tom Grady (Marshall), 2 up in the semis. With the victory, he claimed his third straight match that went to the 18th hole going back to the second round. Hamilton was dormie-3 in the match, but Grady won Nos. 16 (birdie) and 17, before Hamilton two-putted the last for the victory.

The championship final had its own share of dramatics. In the final, Hamilton one-putted four of the first six holes, held a 4-up lead on the outward half and a 3-up advantage after nine. Faced with an uphill climb since the early stages of the match, Green was 3 down after 14, but won three straight holes from Nos. 15-17 to square the match.

Green got to within two for the first time since the fourth hole at No. 15 after his opponent couldn’t get up and down from the right greenside bunker. Thereafter, Green made his first birdie of the championship match at No. 16, tracing in a 12-footer that looked good all the way. He then completed the surge and squared the match at the par-5 17th, winning a sloppily played hole with a bogey.

At No. 17, after driving it down the center of the fairway, Hamilton (pictured left) contemplated going for the green in two with a metal wood, but instead reluctantly elected to lay up with a 4-iron that he pulled way left and out of bounds.

“You can’t start second-guessing yourself. That was the one only mental error I made and it cost me the match,” said Hamilton, who hit his next shot solidly and wound up having a chance for a halve before missing his 6-foot bogey putt.

In the late stages, Green holed a slippery four-and-a-half footer at No. 18 to send the match to extra holes and then made another four-footer at the 19th of the match, the par-4 first hole to keep things going.

After both finalists narrowly missed on good chances for birdie at the 20th hole, things concluded at the 22nd hole, the par-3 fourth. There, first to play at the downhill hole, Green tugged his tee shot left of the putting surface into what appeared to be a troublesome spot. But Hamilton did no better, pulling his shot that came to rest in an impossible low-lying area well about five feet from Route 220, which runs maybe 45 feet beyond the back of the green at the hole. Green escaped with a conceded bogey to claim the match.

“I wanted to turn over a 4-iron, but I turned it over way too much,” Hamilton said. “It was a good number for me and I knew I had to execute the shot, but I just didn’t do it. You cannot miss left.”

Admittedly, determination as much as shotmaking helped Green, 57, capture the championship match.

“I didn’t play as well in the [finals’] as I did throughout the week, but I just kept hanging in there,” said Green (pictured right), who credited his caddie, Bill Hodges, with helping him to negotiate the intricacies of the Cascades Course. “Ward really played great, but I thought, ‘If you start playing well, maybe he’ll give me an opening or two.’ You never know what’s going to happen, but the breaks went my way in the end.”

Hamilton, 58, advanced past the first round of match play for the first time at the VSGA Senior Am this year. His reward? He played 76 holes (18-18-18-22) over the final two days of match play, but knows he gained from the experience and had chances in the finals.

“I gave myself plenty of opportunities, I just couldn’t seal the deal,” said Hamilton, a member at The Dominion Club in Glen Allen. “You have to hand it to Charlie, though. He scrambled his brains out. All the credit goes to him. He really hung tough.”

In the super senior division (ages 65-and-over), Moneta’s Dan Mitchell bested top-seeded fellow local Richard Suggs (Palmyra), 2 and 1. Mitchell was 1 up after 13, won No. 14 and owned at least a 2-up lead the rest of the way to take home his first super senior title.

“I putted great for three days. This is the first one of these I’ve ever won,” said a teary-eyed Mitchell, a member at Blue Hills Golf Club in Roanoke.

--Courtesy VSGA

ABOUT THE VSGA Senior Amateur

36 holes of stroke play qualifying (18 holes per day); the low 32 players advance to match play. Open to VSGA members who are at least 50 years of age holding an active GHIN number issued by a licensed VSGA Member Club in good standing.

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