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Virginia Mid-Am: Biesecker in a thriller

NELLYSFORD, Va. (Oct. 12, 2008) –– Staunton’s Nick Biesecker drained a 42-foot par putt on the 18th hole to stave off hard-charging seven-time event champion Keith Decker (Martinsville) to win the 32nd Virginia State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship, which concluded today at Stoney Creek at Wintergreen’s Shamokin and Tuckahoe Nines.

Competing in his first VSGA championship, Biesecker was the only competitor in the field to post three rounds of par or better and finished at 3-under 213 (70-71-72) to record a one-shot wire-to-wire victory. Playing a grouping ahead of Biesecker, Decker shot a closing 4-under 68 and finished a stroke back at 2-under 214. Alexandria’s Dan Hosek, the 2007 champion, shot an ’08 championship-best round of 5-under 67 and closed action five off the pace at 2-over 218.

Biesecker, who moved to Virginia two-and-a-half years ago and only regained his amateur status last October, took home the M.W. “’Dyke” Peebles Trophy, awarded to the event’s champion.

“When you look at the players who have won this tournament, this probably means more to me than any tournament I’ve played in,” said Biesecker, who played the mini-tours and some PGA TOUR events from 1999-2002. He is now a sports agent for Blue Giraffe Sports, which represents some PGA TOUR players. “When you’re playing against guys like Keith Decker, it means a lot.”

Starting the day five shots off Biesecker’s lead, Decker, a seven-time VSGA golfer of the year, rallied with a final day surge that included six birdies against two bogeys. At the par-5 finishing hole Biesecker owned a one-shot lead over Decker and drove it down the left side of the fairway. But Biesecker pulled his 4-iron second shot left, the shot found the downslope of swale left of the green and the ball came to rest under a huge tree, leaving him virtually no other shot but to somehow bunt it out.

Biesecker had to hit a second straight 4-iron – this time left-handed with the back of his club – and only moved the ball a few feet. Short-sided, his wedge fourth traveled well past the hole location. With his wife of two-and-a-half years, Amanda, refusing to watch, Biesecker’s par-saving putt to win broke from right to left, traced to the cup, the ball, moving at a nice pace, found the right lip and curled in for the victory to the gasps of a few onlookers.

“I putted well all day and wanted to put a good roll on it,’ ” Biesecker said. “I thought, ‘Just make bogey’ and it found the hole.”

Biesecker, who said he didn’t want to know where he stood in the tournament in relation to other competitors, didn’t know he had won the championship until an official told him after the putt fell.

“I’d rather just play my game and not worry about what everyone else is doing,” said Biesecker, who embraced his teary-eyed wife after the round. “I wanted to force someone to catch me.”

Decker almost did. The top-ranked amateur in the commonwealth from 2001-07, Decker, who opened with consecutive 73s, charged up the leaderboard, playing a six-hole stretch from Nos. 7-12 in four under par. After turning in two under, Decker birdied the first three holes of the back nine, making putts of 8 and 15 feet at Nos. 10 and 11, respectively, before two-putting for birdie at the par-5 12th hole.

Four under for his round, Decker stuffed his short iron approach to 14 inches at the par-4 16th to get to five under for the day and tie Biesecker at three under for the championship.

But at the short-par 3 17th hole, Decker tugged his tee shot into the left greenside bunker, his 12-foot par-saver went just by the low side of the cup and he dropped one stroke off the pace. His 15-footer at the last also narrowly went begging.

Decker rallied despite fighting a bad cough for much of the round as the result of a lingering illness that he seemingly can’t shake. He even felt dizzy in his hotel room during the morning and fell, scraping his left knee and elbow.

“I had no idea how I got there,” said Decker of the incident. “I felt OK [during the round] today, though – a little woozy.”

Decker, who has made a ton of important putts of his own in collecting 17 “major” VSGA titles, could only credit Biesecker who hit the shots he is accustomed to pulling off down the stretch.

“He made a fantastic putt and got the job done,” Decker said.

Relying on a host of par-savers that kept his round going throughout the championship, the final round was no different for Biesecker, who had two birdies, two bogeys and sunk a host of important putts on the final day.

After draining a slippery six-footer for par at the par-4 ninth hole, he knocked his tee shot in the water at the par-4 10th and eventually traced in a 30-footer for par to remain at even par for the round.

Following a birdie from close range at No. 12, he pulled his tee shot well left of the green into some wiry grass at the par-3 13th and used a straight-faced club to run his second shot up a swale and eventually made bogey when things could’ve been worse. Thereafter, Biesecker finished with five pars. He saved his best for last.

“I had my plan, didn’t deviate from it and worked my way around,” Biesecker said. “I knew I had to make some putts.”

He did when they counted the most. Biesecker, who only started to play more competitive amateur golf again this year, has admittedly rediscovered his passion for the game after undergoing shoulder surgery in 2006. Wife, Amanda, a microbiology professor at James Madison University, unfamiliar with the game until they married, was watching him play for just the second time this year. The two have admittedly found a comfortable home since moving to Virginia more than two years ago.

“It’s just a wonderful time for us,” she said.

Results from Stoney Creek at Wintergreen’s Shamokin and Tuckahoe nines (6,924 yards, par 36-36—72) follow:

Nicholas Biesecker (Staunton), 70-71-72—213 Keith Decker (Martinsville), 73-73-68—214 Dan Hosek (Alexandria), 76-75-67—218 Roger W. Newsom (Virginia Beach), 76-72-72—220 Allen Barber (Yorktown), 74-72-75—221 Bowen Sargent (Charlottesville), 72-73-76—221 David Schmidt (Wytheville), 75-70-76—221 Scott Bemberis (Richmond), 74-78-70—222 Glenn Mullian (Midlothian), 74-78-71—223 Buck Brittain (Tazewell), 74-73-76—223 Jon Zampedro (Clifton), 77-74-74—225 Jason Copeland (Norfolk), 74-77-75—226 Tony Good (Glen Allen), 79-75-73—227 David Partridge (Manakin-Sabot), 77-77-73—227 Jason Robertson (Virginia Beach), 79-75-73—227 Chris Tuttle (Virginia Beach), 79-74-74—227 Tim Kelley (Ashland), 72-79-76—227 Brandon LaCroix (Roanoke), 78-71-79—228 Steve Serrao (Midlothian), 79-79-71—229 Jim Nirich (Catlett), 73-79-77—229 Adam Horton (Chesapeake), 77-74-78—229 Mike McGowan (Alexandria), 70-81-78—229 James Gallagher (Yorktown), 76-79-75—230 Paul C. Erdman (Toano), 77-76-77—230 Jack Allara (Salem), 74-7581—230 Steven Firkins (Midlothian), 83-78-70—231 Gilbert Bell (Arlington), 78-79-74—231 Anthony Stephenson (Smithfield), 76-76-79—231 Ken Zecchini (Virginia Beach), 73-80-79—232 David Johnson (Springfield), 73-79-80—232 Brad Chambers (Fries), 75-86-72—233 Bob Rotella (Keswick), 82-78-73—233 Skip Zobel (Virginia Beach), 77-79-77—233 Robert Abriss (Garrisonville), 72-81-80—233 Conlin Giles (Portsmouth), 74-81-79—234 Steve Castro (Chantilly), 82-78-75—235 Van Williams (Glen Allen), 79-77-79—235 Paras Pandya (Midlothian), 79-76-80—235 Joe Morton (Virginia Beach), 80-79-77—236 Philip Mahone (Charlottesville), 78-80-78—236 Rodney Laughon (Lynchburg), 77-81-79—237 Brian Jeltema (Yorktown), 80-74-83—237 Nathan Dean (McLean), 80-81-78—239 Mark Boedicker (Great Falls), 84-76-79—239 Alex Stanek (Baleville), 73-78-88—239 Jeffrey Topp (Fairfax), 82-80-79—241 Ralph Knapp (Virginia Beach), 84-77-80—241 Jay Serrao (Virginia Beach), 86-78-79—243 Michael Hays (Virginia Beach), 82-81-81—244 Mike McLister (Leesburg), 83-80-81—244 William McClanan (Virginia Beach), 80-82-82—244 Lanny Duncan (Forest), 78-82-84—244 Alec Sorrel (Glen Allen), 83-76-85—244 Andrew Martin (Chesapeake), 76-82-87—245 Gabriel Martinez (Leesburg), 78-81-86—245 Bob Bailey (Yorktown), 85-80-82—247 Starell Cox (Chesterfield), 80-81-86—247 Lars Lassen (Newport News), 82-79-88—249 Matt Angelelli (Suffolk), 84-81-WD Scott Lamond (Charlottesville), 74-83-WD

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