CENTREVILLE, Va., (Sept. 30, 2011) –– Staunton’s Nick Biesecker shot 3-under-par 69 to headline a crowded leader board following the first round of the 35th Virginia State Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship being conducted at Chantilly National Golf and Country Club.
The 35-year-old Biesecker, the event’s champion in 2008 and 2009, is a stroke clear of record seven-time VSGA Mid-Amateur titleholder Keith Decker, 51, of Martinsville and Lee Fisher, 33, of Altavista who carded 2-under 70 on the demanding 6,960-yard plus layout that features menacing areas of thick, club-grabbing rough ready to claim wayward shots.
Only six competitors in the 98-golfer field returned red numbers in round one. The contingent at 1-under 71 consists of defending champion and this summer’s VSGA Amateur winner, Scott Shingler (Haymarket), fellow northern Virginian Jim McGuire (Haymarket) and Roanoke’s Brandon LaCroix. LaCroix and Biesecker teamed to win this spring’s VSGA Four-Ball Championship
Given the tough conditions, Biesecker played a fairly clean round of four birdies to offset a single bogey. Starting on No. 10, he birdied both par 5s on his outward nine, Nos. 13 and 17, from close range. Biesecker also sandwiched in a birdie at the par-3 14th, drilling a 7-iron to 4 feet. On his second nine, Biesecker knocked in a 15-footer at his 14th hole, the par-4 fifth for his longest birdie make of the day.
Biesecker, a sports agent who represents golfers and other professional athletes for Blue Giraffe Sports, reached the round of 16 at last week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Shadow Hawk Golf Club in Richmond, Texas. But he hadn’t touched a club in nearly 10 days before playing a few holes of client golf on Thursday. He didn’t play a practice round at Chantilly National, but his unfamiliarity with the course barely showed in the first round. Biesecker didn’t get stung by some modest inaccuracy of the tee and hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
“I think [the course] rewards anyone who is a good driver of the golf ball because the length of the rough puts a premium on accuracy,” Biesecker said. “Now, if you hit it a little bit longer and you’re in the rough, you might have a wedge out of it, but you still have to keep it in play to score well on this golf course. For the most part, it’s right there in front of you. It’s an old, traditional-style golf course.”
Admittedly, Biesecker continues to feel the good vibes from his strong performance at the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
“To go out there and have a solid showing is always going to provide confidence in things,” said Biesecker, who is trying to become the third player in VSGA Mid-Amateur history to claim the title three times or more. Decker and central Virginian David Partridge of Manakin (victories in 1988, 1993 and 2006) are the others. “To come back here – being an event that I’ve won twice – it’s very comfortable to compete.”
Off the course, Friday signaled an eventful day for Biesecker. He learned that company client and teen sensation, Lexi Thompson has been granted membership on the LPGA Tour next season. The 16-year-old Thompson asked the LPGA to waive its requirement that members be at least 18 years old to join and the petition was approved by LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan one day after it was filed.
Decker, chasing his 19th VSGA “major” title had five birdies against three bogeys. Starting his round on No. 10, Decker recovered from a sluggish start to birdie Nos. 17 and 18 to turn in two under and was even par with two birdies and a pair of bogeys on his second nine.
Competitors agreed that being off the fairway in wet, tangly, thick grass leaves one in recovery mode and basically eliminates a player’s chances for birdie.
“I tell you what – the rough is as tough as I’ve played all year,” Decker said. “A lot of times, if you get in it, your best play is to pitch it out sideways.”
Decker’s last Mid-Amateur title came in 2005 and has placed among the top four finishers each year since 2007. His strategy remains unchanged: shoot a solid number on Saturday to have a chance to close the deal in Sunday’s final round.
“I’d be happy with a couple under each day,” Decker said. “You have to keep it in the fairway and you have a good chance if you do.”
Fisher, a runner-up at the VSGA Public Links Championship last month, posted two birdies on his outward nine and had three birdies and a bogey altogether.
With his victory at the VSGA Amateur at The Virginian in early July, Shingler became the fourth player in VSGA history to hold the VSGA Amateur and VSGA Mid-Amateur titles in the same rotation. Should he repeat at the Mid-Amateur, Shingler would join Decker as the only players in VSGA history to hold the VSGA Amateur title and own back-to-back wins in the Mid-Amateur. Decker claimed the Mid-Amateur in 1990-91 and the Amateur in 1991.
Following Saturday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 60 competitors and ties for Sunday’s final round. After day one, there are 65 competitors at 10-over 82 or better.
The VSGA Mid-Amateur is open to golfers ages 25 and older.
View results for Virginia Mid-Amateur Golf Championship