ALDIE –– The team of Nick Biesecker (Staunton) and Brandon LaCroix (Roanoke) are in their customary spot atop the leader board following the first day of the Virginia State Golf Association’s Four-Ball Championship.

Now, they just hope the ending is different.

Biesecker-LaCroix combined to shoot 5-under-par 67 as the championship’s 46th edition got underway today at Creighton Farms. They’ve held the lead or a share of the top spot after the first day each of the past two years, but couldn’t finish it off, placing a very respectable third in 2009 before finishing second last year.

“We improved by one spot last year. If we can improve one spot from there this time around, it will be fun,” Biesecker laughed.

For the time being, they headline a crowded leader board entering Saturday’s concluding round, with the tandem of Ben Beach (Glen Allen) and Kevin Miller (Charlottesville) and northern Virginians Dave Walsh (Reston) and Mike Muehr (Potomac Falls) one stroke back after opening with 4-under 68.

The top two amateurs in Virginia in recent years, Keith Decker of Martinsville, consistently the commonwealth’s top-ranked amateur since 2001, and reigning VSGA Mid-Amateur champion Scott Shingler (Haymarket) had 69 and are two off the pace. Defending champions Ben Keefer (Glen Allen) and Tim Kelley (Ashland) as well as Jon Hurst (Fredericksburg) and Pat Tallent (Vienna) opened with 70.

The leaders can’t credit course familiarity with their spot atop the leader board. LaCroix played a practice round late Thursday. Biesecker, a player agent for Blue Giraffe Sports, wasn’t so fortunate. He flew in late Thursday and saw the layout for the first time when they stepped on the first tee for their 10:30 a.m. starting time on Friday.

Truth be told, Biesecker basically didn’t get a practice session in before the round, spending most of his time with a phone in his ear and only had time to hit a few casual one-handed shots while handling work obligations and tending to clients.

It didn’t seem to affect them much, though. They stormed out of the gate, ticking off three straight birdies at Nos. 2-4 and collected three more on the inward half against only a single bogey. They were both in position for birdie throughout the round. So much for warm-ups.

“It was nice to have [LaCroix] take me around out there and show me where to go,” said Biesecker, twice a winner of the VSGA Mid-Amateur Championship.

The tandems of Walsh-Muehr and Beach-Miller earned medalist honors at their respective qualifying sites and their strong play continued when the championship ensued.

Beach and Miller earned the one available spot in their qualifier for the championship on April 11 at The Manor Resort Golf Club (Farmville) on the second extra hole. Judging from their start, they seem intent on making the most of the opportunity. They teamed for four birdies, played bogey-free in the first round and birdied both par 5s on the inward nine; all of their birdies came from 8 feet or less on the perfect greens.

As the 24-year-old Beach rewound the round, he noted that the key was his partner making a 15-foot par-saving putt on the first hole.

“That was huge – we didn’t have a chance to make bogey since then,” he said.

The two started to play together on a regular basis about a year and a half ago, found an ideal complement and now have their sights set on claiming the title. They’ll be in the final grouping off No. 1 with the leaders on Saturday.

“We’re thrilled with where we’re at, but I would be more thrilled if we were right there on [Saturday],” Beach said. “We’d love to hold the trophy at the end.”

Muehr, a reinstated amateur, teamed with Walsh to collect six birdies against two bogeys; they accounted for three birdies in the final five holes, playing that stretch in two under par.

A quarter of the field – 12 teams among 48 – broke par on the first day at the nearly 7,200 Creighton Farms layout. In the four-ball format, each player plays his ball into the hole, but only the best score is counted toward the team aggregate.

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