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Mid-Amateur Shingler wins Virginia Amateur

BRISTOL, Va., July 2, 2011 –– Mid-amateur Scott Shingler, 39, of Haymarket scored a 3 and 2 victory over 18-year-old Ji Soo Park of Centreville to win Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final as the 98th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship concluded at The Virginian Golf Club.

Shingler took home his first title in the VSGA’s most prestigious championship and won his second straight association individual major title, having claimed the VSGA Mid-Amateur last October.

He’s only the fourth player in VSGA history to hold both titles in the same rotation, joining former Galax resident Tom McKnight (1985), Martinsville’s Keith Decker (Mid-Amateur winner in 1990, Amateur champion in 1991) and Manakin’s David Partridge (1993) in owning that distinction.

The Mid-Amateur is open to golfers 25 and over (the age requirement used to be 30); this year’s Amateur was dominated by teenagers, collegians and twenty-somethings. In taking hold of the Schwarzschild Brothers Trophy on Saturday (recognized by VSGA president Richard Wight, right), Shingler continued to assert himself as one of the premier amateurs in the commonwealth these days. He also became the first golfer in his 30s to claim victory in the Amateur since 2000 when Scottsville’s David Passerell triumphed as a 32-year-old; Vienna’s Pat Tallent interrupted the youth surge in 2007, triumphing as a 53-year-old.

Many believed that it was only a matter of time before Shingler took home his first VSGA individual title in taking last year’s VSGA Mid-Amateur. His victory at the VSGA Amateur represents another shining moment for Shingler, the owner of an enviable, smooth and technically sound swing.

“I’d really like to put my fingerprint on Virginia golf – and this is a start,” said Shingler, who finished second individually at last year’s USGA Men’s State Team Championship at Mayacama (Calif.) Golf Club. “I don’t set many goals at the beginning of the year; my goal is not to win five tournaments in a year, for example. I just want to get better each day.

“Golf is not like other sports. You can play well in this game and still, for whatever reason, not win at the end of the day, but I think if I keep trying to get better and improve my game, I’ll give myself chances to win. Each year, I’m trying to improve.”

That strategy proved unabashedly wise. In a matchup of first-time finalists, Shingler never trailed in the deciding encounter, surging to a match high four holes up lead in the morning through 15 holes. One hole up through nine, Shingler started to gain some separation from his opponent during an important morning mini-run, taking three of six holes between Nos. 10 and 15; he made consecutive birdies at Nos. 10 and 11, draining birdie putts inside 10 feet before capping the surge with a par win at par-3 15th, where his opponent, battling an off and on short game, three-putted.

But Park, a recent graduate of Chantilly High School, seemed to start to settle into the match, rallying for a pair of birdies to conclude the morning session, draining a 35-footer uphill birdie putt at No. 17 and winning No. 18 with a conceded birdie to get within two holes down at lunch.

The University of Virginia bound Park continued his comeback after the break, claiming the 19th hole, No. 1, with a par (Shingler three-putted) and was only one hole down at the time.But that’s as close as he would get the rest of the way.

Shingler started to reassert himself in the match, pushing his lead back to three holes up with consecutive birdies at Nos. 21 and 22, At the 21st hole, the par-5 third, Shingler drilled his hybrid second shot from 245 yards to 20 feet left of the hole and negotiated a big-breaker for a nice two-putt birdie. One hole later, he handled a flyer lie out of the second cut, cleanly clipping a 7-iron from 188 yards to 7 feet for another birdie.

During a back-and-forth stretch, Park made inroads, accounting for a birdie of his own at the 24th hole, knocking in an 8-foot birdie putt before Shingler answered by taking the 27th hole, the par-4 ninth with a par to regain a three holes up advantage.

Undeterred and gaining more confidence with each passing moment, Park won the 28th hole, the par-4 10th draining an uphill 20-foot birdie putt.

As was the case for much of the final, though, Shingler had the answer in the most crucial moments that would ultimately help decide the outcome, taking the 30th hole, the par-4 12th, where he knocked in an 8-footer for his birdie after lunch to go three holes up for a fourth time in the afternoon up to that point.The mindset? Keep the pressure on, according to Shingler.

“I expected [Park] to make a run, but I never wanted him to square the match,” he said. “I always wanted him to know that I was up in the match. I expected him to win a hole or two, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t play protective golf. I knew I had to play some good golf. I knew I couldn’t let up because before you know it, the match can go to all square at any moment.”

Park would claim the next hole, No. 31, the par-3 13th with a par, but that would be his last victory in the match.

“I thought that I could come back and he gave me a little chance, but I couldn’t grab that chance,” Park said. “I didn’t want to give up and played as hard as I could.

“In the morning, I was a little nervous and didn’t putt well, but I got more comfortable. Scott is a really good player and I couldn’t catch up. I knew that before we started, but he’s really good.”

Shingler showed off his full arsenal of shots, finishing the match at the 34th hole, the par-4 16th, playing a 54-degree wedge from 109 yards to 3 feet, knocking the title-clinching putt in the center.

“I was really excited and relieved – Ji Soo played a great match and we both gave each other some opportunities,” Shingler said. “But with four or five holes left, I wanted to try to add some more pressure and win the match. Standing on [No.] 15 tee, I thought maybe I could make birdie and close it out.”

Park reached the second round of match play at the VSGA Amateur in 2009, signaling his previous best performance at the championship and admittedly gained some know-how from this year’s experience. He immigrated to the United States from South Korea seven years ago and was brought to the game by his father, Jong Chan Park, who also serves as his swing instructor.

“I feel great that I made it to the final – it’s more than what I expected,” Park said. “Hopefully, next year I can hold the big trophy like Scott did today. I’ll feel more prepared the next few years.

“My dad has worked on everything with me, so I want to thank him for everything he’s done for me.”

In addition to his quarterfinal round victory over the 51-year-old Decker, the top-ranked amateur in the commonwealth entering the VSGA Amateur, Shingler bested four young players – two collegians (Radford’s Paul Woodson and Wake Forest’s Evan Beck), a recent college graduate (Sam Beach, who finished his degree requirements at the University of Richmond in May) – and a former prep standout in Park.

“Is this the next step?” reflected Shingler, who has the SunTrust State Open of Virginia, July 14-17 next on his radar. “I would say so, yeah. It’s important for me to win the VSGA Amateur because it includes everyone. It was nice to beat those young guys.”

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