Bliesecker, LaCroix win VA 4-Ball

ALDI, Virg. (May 7, 2011) –– Staunton’s Nick Biesecker and Roanoke’s Brandon LaCroix held off until the final putt on the last hole to collect their first VSGA Four-Ball title, but their wait is finally over.

LaCroix made sure of it by holing an 11-foot par putt at the par-5 finishing hole to help the tandem shoot a final round 3-under-par 69 and post a one-stroke victory at the championship, which concluded today at the immaculate Creighton Farms.

LaCroix and Biesecker finished in third place at the championship in 2009 and second last year before finally taking possession of the Wallace McDowell Trophy for the first time.

Their 8-under-par 136 aggregate was good enough to outlast two of the commonwealth’s top amateurs, Keith Decker (Martinsville) and Scott Shingler (Haymarket), who closed with 68 and Dave Walsh (Reston)-Mike Muehr (Potomac Falls), who had a final round 69. Both tandems finished at 7-under 137.

After his third shot at the demanding par-5 18th hole found the left greenside bunker, LaCroix’s blast came to rest above the hole. With his partner out of the hole for one of the few times during the day, the championship’s outcome rested in his hands. The slippery, subtly breaking putt seemingly crawled to the hole, but appropriately enough, the delay was worth it right down to the end when the ball dropped in the center of the hole.

The two met at a casual captain’s choice event in 2007 at Roanoke Country Club and the mid-amateurs have proven to complement each other well in competition. And they no longer have to wonder when their first victory in the event might arrive.

“I think we would’ve been very frustrated had I not made it – we may have had to break the team up had I missed,” LaCroix laughed. “We felt like we know what it meant. I got the perfect read and it went right in the hole.”

Their victory was a total team effort. Owners of a one-stroke lead following a first-day 67, the partners birdied four of the first five holes, with Biesecker supplying three in the early-going to move the team to nine under.

Decker-Shingler trailed by as many as four strokes, but converted consecutive birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 to get to seven under and closed within one of the leaders, who made their first bogey of the day at No. 10.

Relatively benign conditions at the start of the day gave way to prevailing winds as the day progressed, making scoring on an already-demanding Creighton Farms layout play even tougher. LaCroix made an important bogey-saving putt at the par-4 13th and Biesecker’s putter woke up again at No. 15, draining a birdie putt to get the team to eight under.

Playing a grouping ahead of Biesecker-LaCroix, Shingler drained an 11-foot birdie putt at the downhill par-3 17th to get he and Decker within one. Muehr, supplying most of the team’s scoring chances, helped he and his partner stay within one for most of the day. A costly bogey at the par-4 16th hole left them two off the lead, all but derailing their title hopes. Walsh made birdie at the par-5 18th that would ultimately give them a share of second place.

Even after making five bogeys on the day, Shingler had a 12-foot birdie bid to tie the top spot at the last, but the chance went just past the hole.

“I hit it where I wanted to hit it. It just didn’t do what I thought it was going to do,” Shingler said. “We had some good looks at some putts. We just didn’t make enough birdies.”

That same sentiment can likely be shared by most of the field. The eight under aggregate turned in by Biesecker-LaCroix was the highest winning score since 1999 when Decker and central Virginian David Partridge finished at eight under par at northern Virginia’s Fawn Lake Country Club in Spotsylvania.

At Creighton Farms, where seemingly not a blade of grass was out of place, just over a quarter of the starting 48-team field – 14 teams in all – concluded the 36-hole championship with an under par score.

“This was probably the toughest golf course we’ve played in a VSGA event – in a long time,” Decker said.

Biesecker’s early birdies proved to be important to the outcome. He collected his third VSGA title, having won consecutive VSGA Mid-Amateurs in 2008 and 2009.

“On this golf course, that’s where you have the make birdies,” said Biesecker, a player agent who represents professional golfers for Blue Giraffe Sports. “On the back nine, it’s a tough golf course. It’s a very demanding golf course if you were in the rough and from [No.] 12 on in, it’s not a bargain.”

Ultimately, the steady play of Biesecker-LaCroix – right down to the last stroke – proved to be the difference. It’s a safe bet no team in recent history deserve bragging right more than the champions, given their recent close calls. The newly minted titleholders already seem comfortable with the designation ‘reigning champions.’

“Now, the pressure is on us to try to defend,” Biesecker said.

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