VA Senior Stroke Play: Bleiler in Playoff

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (May 28, 2009)--Suffolk’s Bobby Bleiler made par on the first extra hole, the par-5 first, to outlast Tom Grady (Marshall) to win the 24th Virginia State Golf Association Senior Stroke Play Championship, which concluded today at the Navy owned and operated Aeropines Golf Club Hornet Course at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach.

Bleiler, 58, posted an ’09 championship-best score of 4-under-par 68 in final round action and concluded the championship at 3-under 141, along with Grady, who closed with 3-under 69. Williamsburg’s Mike McDonald (69), first round leader Walt Martin of Oakton (74) and Centreville’s John Long (72) finished two back at 3-under 141.

Bleiler (pictured right being presented the Corbette King Trophy by VSGA board member Michael W. Ancel) triumphed in his first start in the championship. Though hardly accustomed to late round pressure situations in VSGA championships, Bleiler battled his nerves and came through when it counted the most.

“I was shaking during the playoff and was shaking 30 minutes after it was finished,” said Bleiler, who joins record four-time VSGA Senior Stroke Play winner and fellow Suffolk resident J.P. Leigh as a champion in the event. “This is the first big event I’ve ever won. It lets me know that I can play with guys like J.P. Leigh when I have it going. Today, I had it going.”

Possessor of a one-stroke lead after seven holes, Martin used a mid-round surge to build a four-stroke advantage. Martin dialed in short iron approaches to close range at Nos. 8 and 9, draining putts inside of eight feet at both holes. He capped the birdie barrage at the par-4 10th, pouring in a right-to-left breaking 20-footer to get to two under for the day and five under for the championship. He then made birdie at No. 15 to get to six under for the championship and held a three-stroke lead with two holes remaining.

Playing one grouping ahead of Martin, Bleiler shot 1-over 73 in opening round action, but answered by shooting one under on the outward half to get back to even par for the event. On the inward nine, he made three birdies in a five-hole span that would later prove to be pivotal. Bleiler chipped to 2 feet for an ensuing birdie at the par-5 13th hole, drained a 30-footer at the par-4 15th and made a 10-footer at the par-3 17th.

Five back on the back nine, Grady birdied No. 11 from 10 feet to get to one under and added three birdies in a five-hole stretch, all inside five feet, at Nos. 13, 15 and 17 to move to four under. He pulled his drive left on No. 18 and made bogey at the last, but still posted three under along with Bleiler.

Meanwhile, the final two holes proved to be Martin’s undoing as he finished triple-bogey, double-bogey. At the par-3 17th, he skulled his greenside bunker shot into an unplayable lie over the green and wound up making triple-bogey 6 to drop to three under and into a three-way tie for the top spot with Bleiler and Grady.

At the par-5 18th, Martin blistered a 3-wood off the tee, but it traveled too far and came to rest in tall grass on the downslope near the water hazard. Faced with an awkward stance, he pulled his recovery shot and seemingly unsettled by the turn of events, wound up making 7.

“That’s just golf,” commented a dejected Martin. “I had the tournament. I just didn’t hit a good shot on 17.”

Martin played strong golf for much of the day, but with only a few strokes, he watched his lead somehow evaporate in the late moments.

“That was a tough finish,” said Martin, shaking his head. “I played so well all day.”

On the first extra hole, Grady found the water hazard to the right with his tee shot and ended up making double bogey, while Bleiler steadily hit the green in regulation and made par to capture the Corbette King Trophy.

Grady said, “I was unsettled the whole day. When I tried to put the pedal to the medal, I got in trouble.”

Bleiler plays with a regular group on weekends at Nansemond River Golf Club in Suffolk where he is a member. On Wednesday evening, Bleiler heard from a friend who he plays golf with, a Virginia Beach policeman, who wanted to know how he was faring in the event.

“I told him, ‘I’m three back,’ smiled Bleiler, who works for the Virginia Department of Transportation in Suffolk. “He told me, ‘Just go out there and play like you’re playing me, because you beat me every time we play.’ ”

Now, he’ll have a VSGA title to his name, good news and a shiny trophy to bring back to his cadre of friends and fellow golfers.

“I’ll tell ’em I beat ’em,” Bleiler chuckled.

Meanwhile, among the super seniors, local Freddie Veraque (Virginia Beach) shot a final round best 2-under 70 in the division to win among the 65-and-overs. Veraque finished a stroke ahead of fellow-competitor Stan Fischer of Richmond, who was in the same grouping. Fischer closed with even-par 72. Also in the super senior division, Williamsburg’s Harry Cain scored a hole-in-one at the 137-yard par-3 17th hole using a 7-iron. The ball landed short of the hole and rolled right into the cup. Cain opened with 82, but rallied with a final round 4-under 68.

Scores following the final round of the 24th VSGA Senior Stroke Play Championship at Aeropines Golf Club’s Hornet Course (6,479 yards, par 36-36—72) on Thursday, May 28.

SENIOR DIVISION (ages 55-64)
* – Bobby Bleiler (Suffolk), 73-68—141
Tom Grady (Marshall), 72-69—141
Mike McDonald (Williamsburg), 74-69—143
Walt Martin (Oakton), 69-74—143
John Long (Centreville), 71-72—143
O.D. Gardner (Newport News), 70-74—144
Greg Thomas (Virginia Beach), 74-71—145
Vinny Giles (Richmond), 74-71—145
Michael W. Ancel (Newport News), 75-71—146
Leon Roday (Richmond), 75-72—147
Joe Restein (Cape Charles), 74-73—147
Tim Vigotsky (Centreville), 72-75—147
Charles E. Green III (Tazewell), 74-74—148
Steve Isaacs (Richmond), 78-71—149
J.P. Leigh (Suffolk), 74-75—149
Tom Hackett (Powhatan), 74-75—149
John Casstevens (Glen Allen), 79-71—150
John Price (Chantilly), 77-73—150
Ward Hamilton (Manakin-Sabot), 76-74—150
George B. Owens (Virginia Beach), 73-77—150
Bert Wilson (Mechanicsville), 76-75—151
Bert Allen (Forest), 75-76—151
Chris Harvey (Charlottesville), 73-78—151
Don Jeanes (Fairfax), 77-75—152
George Kemp (Virginia Beach), 77-75—152
Dave LeClere (Herndon), 74-78—152
James Walker (Virginia Beach), 80-73—153
Taylor Jennings (Herndon), 74-79—153
Bill Dickinson (Virginia Beach), 74-79—153
Tony Aguiar (Richmond), 79-76—155
Jay Pickus (Richmond), 77-78—155
Jim Malone (Charlottesville), 82-74—156
Lynn Wessman (Arlington), 79-77—156
Billy McClanan (Virginia Beach), 75-81—156
Jim Gaddy (Lynchburg), 77-80—157
Don Jenkins (Fairfax), 85-74—159
Bill Love (Blacksburg), 80-79—159
Paul Smith (Chesapeake), 79-80—159
Marshall Fleming (Suffolk), 83-77—160
John Franklin (Danville), 82-78—160
Chuck McKinney (Virginia Beach), 79-81—160
Terry Towler (Dillwyn), 79-81—160
Jay Hehn (Hampton), 81-80—161
Fritz Hirchert (Virginia Beach), 84-78—162
Dick Douthat (Forest), 79-84—163
Larry Cifranic (Gainesville), 82-82—164
Bill Shields (Smithfield), 89-76—165
Dale Matthews (McLean), 82-83—165
Andy Parker (Collinsville), 80-85—165
Jerry Estep (Mount Jackson), 84-82—166
Bob Becker (Bassett), 81-86—167
Cruger Ragland Jr. (Kilmarnock), 84-84—168
George Deryckere (Woodbridge), 88-83—171
John Mann (Richmond), 90-83—173
William Miller (Alexandria), 96-78—174
John Keller (Haymarket), 82-93—175
Gary McNutt (Haymarket), 88-96—184
Robert Tucker (Falls Church), 86-WD
Chris Ward (Glen Allen), 81-WD

* – denotes won the championship with a par on the first extra hole, the par-5 first hole.

SUPER SENIOR DIVISION (ages 65-and-over, 5,994 yards, par 36-36—72)
Freddie Veraque (Virginia Beach), 74-70—144
Stan Fischer (Richmond), 73-72—145
William Proffitt (Roanoke), 73-73—146
Tom Flory (Madison), 75-72—147
Thomas Vogt (Richmond), 75-73—148
Bill Kellam (Williamsburg), 74-74—148
Robert Murphy (Leesburg), 72-76—148
Murray Rudisill (Portsmouth), 78-71—149
David A. King (Potomac Falls), 77-72—149
Harry Cain (Williamsburg), 82-68—150
Richard Suggs (Palmyra), 79-71—150
Don Valcheff (Nokesville), 73-77—150
Stephen Smith (Arlington), 77-74—151
William Stallings (McLean), 76-75—151
Larry Brinn (Chesapeake), 78-74—152
John Bolino (Suffolk), 76-76—152
Roger Pitkin (Springfield), 78-75—153
Gordon Huey (Virginia Beach), 76-80—156
Rudy O’Dell (Martinsville), 82-75—157
Marvin Taylor (Roanoke), 76-81—157
Frank Kennedy (Roanoke), 78-80—158
Crady Adams (Vinton), 77-81—158
Ned Baber (Roanoke), 82-79—161
Bob Moyers (New Market), 80-83—163
Charley Turner (Salem), 85-80—165
Barry Barnard (Roseland), 86-80—166
Jim Kite (Wolftown), 84-86—170
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