Virginia Junior: Ball wins match play championship

HAYMARKET, Va. (June 24, 2011) –– Richmond’s Adam Ball birdied the final three holes of the deciding match to get past opponent and fellow 17-year-old Chas Bassing (Great Falls) in 19 holes to win the 21st Virginia State Golf Association Junior Match Play Championship, which concluded today at The Piedmont Club (6,694 yards, par 36-36—72).

The championship’s stroke play medalist, Ball claimed his first VSGA Junior Match Play title and became the first top seed to go on to take home the title since Blackstone’s Cameron Yancey accomplished the feat in 1996.

It didn’t come without a struggle in a gem of an encounter that was closely-contested and cleanly played the whole way. Counting the concessions that are customary in match play, Ball (pictured left with Bassing), a rising junior at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, was the stroke-play equivalent of five under par for the match, while Bassing was four under in his own right.

The VSGA’s reigning co-junior boy of the year, Ball made his only bogey of the match at the par-3 16th hole to fall one hole down; bunkered on his tee shot, he missed a 6-foot par-saver. But showing the calm – the grit and will – of a player committed to enduring to the end, Ball courageously slid a 12-foot birdie putt in the right side at the par-4 17th hole to return the match to all square for a sixth time on the second nine.

“I was a little nervous over that putt, but I knew I had to make it,” Ball said.

At the par-5 18th hole, Bassing clipped his third shot, a 30-yard pitch, off the grass to 15 feet below the hole. Facing the same uphill putt he had earlier in the week, the northern Virginian aimed the chance at the right edge and the ball broke perfectly into the hole.

Ball worked on short game shots and putting for hours on end following Thursday’s quarterfinal round encounter. And when it counted most, he executed under the pressure of needing to hole a putt to continue things, knocking in a 5-footer for a matching birdie at No. 18 to send the finalists to extra holes.

At the first extra hole, the 350-yard par-4 first, Ball hit a terrific tee shot and played a 75-yard lob shot to 10 inches. After his opponent’s 16-foot birdie chance ran out of pace, Ball tapped in for the victory. Ball never led in the match until the clinching birdie at the 19th hole.

“When I lost [No.] 16, I was a little frustrated, but birdieing the last three holes assured me that I can finish,” said Ball, who earned the Clyde L. Luther Trophy, honoring the VSGA’s longtime rules chairman and national championship rules official.

Bassing was three under par on the first nine – and still only held a 1-up lead – an advantage he owned twice on the second nine at Nos. 13 and 16 until Ball’s late heroics decided the memorable encounter. Barely making it into the 16-player match play field as the 15th low qualifier, Bassing admittedly gained confidence from his caddie, Adam Ochs of Ashburn in winning three matches leading up to the final, including record a 19-hole victory over Trevor Times (Williamsburg) in Friday morning’s semifinals.

“I’ve been working on my game this spring, but I came into the [championship] hoping to have fun and play some good golf. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about winning,” Bassing said. “My caddie told me if I took advantage of my opponent’s mistakes, I could win.”

And ultimately, the championship match produced a loser in name only. With the triumph, Ball became the sixth player in VSGA history to put his name on both the Junior Match and Junior Stroke Play titles, joining Curtis Deal, G.W. Cable, Chip Glover, Yancey and Ryan Sypniewski in owning that distinction.

The 2009 VSGA Junior Stroke Play champion, Ball admittedly has his sights set on continuing his climb.

“I’m hoping to get the Match Play and the Stroke Play in the same year,” says Ball, who will compete in the Junior Stroke Play, July 26-28 at Suffolk’s Cedar Point Country Club. Yancey was the last player to have won the Junior Match Play and Junior Stroke Play titles in the same year, notching victories in both championships in 1996.

Ball won four matches at last week’s Richmond Golf Association Amateur Championship before falling to friend and Midlothian resident Nick Austin on the third extra hole; he was determined to reverse recent history this time around.

“I was not going to lose in the final two weeks in a row,” Ball said. “I’m pretty happy right now.”

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