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Virginia Sr. 4-Ball: Two teams atop leaderboard

GORDONSVILLE, Va. (May 24, 2011) –– Richmond area golfers Tim Kelley (Ashland) and David Partridge (Manakin) and northern Virginians Pat Tallent and Bob Morris of Vienna each posted first round scores of 7-under-par 65 to headline a crowded leader board entering Wednesday’s final day of the 29th Virginia State Golf Association Senior Four-Ball Championship being conducted at Spring Creek Golf Club.

The tandems are a stroke ahead of Lynn Wessman (Arlington)-Don Jeanes (Fairfax), as well as Jeff Flax (Virginia Beach)-Jay Rickles (Hampton), who opened with 6-under 66. Richmond’s John Cuomo, twice a winner of the VSGA Senior Four-Ball, teamed with Alexandria’s John Whitmore to post 5-under 67 and are two strokes off the pace.

Altogether, 10 teams are within four shots of the lead entering Wednesday’s final round.

Kelley-Partridge teamed for the first time together and they were both making their debut appearance in the championship. But they found an instant fit, playing bogey-free with seven birdies.

Three under par through nine holes, the tandem continued to build their momentum by collecting another birdie to start the inward nine. Partridge noted that the turning point of their round came at the par-4 11th, where both their tee shots came to rest in the fairway bunker. But Kelley clipped a gap wedge from the sand that finished 10 inches from the hole for an eventual birdie to get them to four under.

“That birdie was the springboard that helped the whole round come together – and stay together,” said Partridge, who knocked in a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-3 13th, before Kelley holed an 18-footer at the par-4 16th.

A central Virginian framing contactor, Kelley reached the age eligibility requirement of 55 last October, while Partridge, 56, had a scheduling conflict last year, so he was making his first start in the championship.

“We’re still a little wet behind the ears,” Partridge said with a smile.

But they complemented each other well throughout the round, so important in the four-ball format in which each player plays his ball into the hole, but only the best score is counted toward the team aggregate.

“Even though, at times, we played consistently well, we partnered together well,” Partridge said. “The few times we needed to help each other, we were able to do that. On balance it was a really solid round of golf.”

D.C. area golfers Bob Morris and Pat Tallent (pictured right) assured a spot in the final grouping and probably wished the first day hadn’t ended after birdieing the final five holes in 3-3-3-2-4 surge to finish off a back nine of 6-under-par 30. They battled some sporadic short game play early in the round, but drained putt after putt in the closing moments to turn what looked like a pedestrian round into a share of a spot atop the leader board.

“We played the front nine like the first time we’d played golf,” Tallent said with a laugh. “It didn’t look very good early on, but it ended up very nice.”

Morris-Tallent owned the lead following the first day of last year’s championship at River Creek Club in Leesburg before finishing in a tie for third place.

“You have to have two good days,” said Tallent, a finalist at the 2010 USGA Senior Amateur Championship. “One day is not good enough.”

Playing the role of pursuer seems as though it’s fine with Wessman-Jeanes, who will be playing in the next-to-last grouping off No. 1 on Wednesday. Jeanes birdied three of the final five holes to keep them in position heading into the final round.

“I’m kind of glad we’re not in the last group,” Jeanes said. The team reached the championship through qualifying, held at six sites throughout the commonwealth in April. “Now, we can kind of sneak in under the radar.”

Statewide, the VSGA family, championship competitors and golfers continue to turn their attention to longtime VSGA championship participant Glenn Mullian, who was involved in a serious car accident on Monday, May 16.

Flax, a longtime friend of Mullian’s considered withdrawing from the championship, but was spurred on by thoughts of Glenn’s courageous perseverance. With his attention turned toward his close friend, whom he’s known since their pre-teen years, he teamed with Rickles to account for four birdies and an eagle. Following the round, Flax went to visit Glenn in his hospital room at U.Va. Medical Center.

“Anyone who knows Glenn, knows he’s pretty strong-willed and determined – and that’s how he made himself into a good player,” Flax said. “We’re all hoping he gets through all of this.”

Flax has one goal in mind when the final round gets underway.

“It would be lovely to win for [Glenn]. I would love to take the [trophy] back and put it in his room.”

The VSGA and competitors will have a moment of prayer for Glenn during the final round of the VSGA Senior Four-Ball Championship at 10:30 a.m. – the association invites anyone to do the same (no matter where you are) as we all wish him the best in his recovery efforts and turn our thoughts toward Glenn and the entire Mullian family.

“He’s always in our thoughts,” Rickles said. “If anyone has the will to get through this, it’s Glenn.”

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