GLEN ALLEN (May 9, 2010) –– Central Virginian Ben Keefer (Glen Allen) made a pivotal eagle from off the green in the late stages of the final round and he and partner Tim Kelley (Ashland) handled high gusting winds to post a two-stroke comeback victory as the 45th Virginia State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship concluded today at The Federal Club (7,007 yards, par 36-36—72).
Keefer and Kelley combined to shoot a final round 3-under 69 to finish the championship at 11-under-par 133. First round leaders Brandon LaCroix (Roanoke) and Nick Biesecker (Staunton) had a final day even-par 72 and finished two shots off the pace (135, -9). Chesapeake’s Adam Horton teamed with Jeff Long (Centreville) to shoot a final-round best 4-under 68 and concluded the championship three strokes back at 8-under 136.
Prevailing winds played havoc with club selection and distance control all day. With three holes to play, Keefer-Kelley and LaCroix-Biesecker, playing together in the final grouping on the last day, were tied at 10 under par for the championship. Any airborne play was bound to end up in any number of spots, so Keefer tamed the Texas-like wind with a Texas wedge shot.
Eschewing any thoughts of having the gusts affect his third shot from behind the green at the par-5 16th hole, Keefer elected to putt through about 8 feet of fringe. He played the shot perfectly, the ball tracked right toward the cup and dropped in, giving he and Kelley the two-stroke edge that they would carry to the title.
Keefer had faced a similar shot in recent weeks at events, but played it to perfection to break the deadlock.
“Coming off the Fox Puss [Invitational] last week, you have the same type of shot off a tight lie,” said Keefer, 31, a VSGA member at Hermitage Country Club. “I’ve faced that shot a number of times, but that’s the first one that’s gone in.”
LaCroix’s 5-foot birdie chance to stay within one stroke at No. 16 went just by the low side, making Keefer’s clutch shot even more monumental.
“It was big on the psyche for them, I thought,” said Kelley, a VSGA member at The Federal Club.
Biesecker’s 6-foot par chance to get within one stroke of the leaders heading to the final hole narrowly went past the cup.
“Conditions were tough, that’s all you can say,” Biesecker said. “It’s tough to be comfortable when it’s that windy when you’re standing over putts. It’s tough to come back when someone makes eagle and you’re two down.”
Keefer-Kelley and LaCroix-Biesecker were tied at 12 under for the event after 13 holes, but on the closing five holes, the wind blew as hard as it had all day. Keefer remembered striking a 4-iron from 230 yards over the green prior to his heroics at No. 16, before debating whether to hit 4-iron from 165 yards at the par-3 17th hole.
Keefer-Kelly played the the last five holes in a very respectable one over par, while LaCroix-Biesecker were three over in that same stretch. Trailing by one stroke entering the final round, they shot three under on the first nine to tie their fellow-competitors and things were tight the rest of the way. The victors, who made it into the championship through zone qualifying, claimed their first VSGA title and took home the Wallace McDowell Trophy, honoring the late VSGA executive director.
“One of my goals coming into the year was to win a state title,” said Kelley, 54, the 2009 Richmond Golf Association Amateur and Senior Amateur champion. “I still want to win an individual one, but this is pretty darn close.”
In benign conditions in the first round, half the 48-team field posted a par or better score, but in the final round, only 13 tandems shot even-par 72 or better.
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