GORDONSVILLE, Va (May 12, 2012) –– Martinsville’s Keith Decker and Northern Virginian Scott Shingler of Haymarket combined for a final round 6-under-par 66 to post a one-stroke victory at the 47th VSGA Four-Ball Championship, which concluded today at Spring Creek Golf Club.
Decker-Shingler combined for their first title in their second straight year partnering together, finishing at 11-under 133 and a shot ahead of central Virginians Spence Andrews (Glen Allen) and Tom Vlahakis (Ashland), who returned 7-under 65 (10-under 134 aggregate) in the final round, tying the second-best score of the day. Defending champions Brandon LaCroix (Roanoke) and Nick Biesecker (Staunton) also closed with 65 to finish two back at 9-under 135, along with first round overnight leaders Ray Dingledine and Alex Sleeker of Richmond (3-under 69).
The 52-year-old Decker, already a record five-time VSGA Four-Ball winner, added a sixth to his collection and claimed his 19th VSGA ‘major’ VSGA title. Meanwhile Shingler, the reigning VSGA Amateur champion, became the first player to hold both the VSGA Amateur and Four-Ball titles in the same rotation since Decker captured both events in 1991.
Shingler and Decker were the top two points’ leaders, respectively, in the 2011 season-ending VSGA player rankings. Decker, who has consistently held the top spot since the 2001, offered a stern opinion when asked who has the stake as the best player in the commonwealth these days.
“It’s not a hard question at all. He’s right here,” said Decker, pointing right at Shingler, who was honored as the VSGA golfer of the year in 2011. “Over the last one and a half to two years, Scott’s been the man.”
Shingler politely shook his head and was quick to throw water on that notion.
“We have so many great players in the state,” said the 40-year-old Shingler. “Out here, any player can beat any other guy on any given day.”
It might’ve been the only time the two friends weren’t on the same wavelength at this year’s Four-Ball. Decker, showing he has plenty left, shot 32 on his own ball on the outward half to move the team to nine under for the championship. He birdied the short par-4 fourth hole and ran off three more at Nos. 6, 7 and 9, holing a 35-footer at the demanding par-4 seventh. Still, Decker credited his partner with making an important 20-foot par-saver at the par-4 third as a round-starter that kept early momentum on their side.
“That sort of got our whole day going,” Decker said.
Shingler was in position all day, but Decker was the one making the putts on the first nine. Shingler holed a 7-footer for birdie at the par-4 11th and Decker soon added a straight-in birdie putt at the par-5 12th to move the team to 11 under. They never trailed the rest of the way. That’s because the tandem complemented each other well throughout the round, a necessity on the demanding, nearly 7,100-yard Spring Creek layout.
“I trust Scott 100 percent. Hopefully, he trusts me about 80 percent,” Decker said with a laugh.
There seems little question about Shingler’s belief in his partner.
“I just felt like I was making pars and everyone knows Keith is a great putter,” Shingler said of the seven time VSGA golfer of the year. “When you free him up, he’s even more dangerous.”
After opening with 3-under 69, Andrews-Vlahakis climbed up the leader board on day two. Vlahakis, 37, played a nine-hole stretch from Nos. 9-17 in five under par, starting the surge by holing a 30-footer for eagle at the par-5 ninth. He added birdies at Nos. 11, 13 and 17 to move the team to 10 under as Andrews, a reinstated amateur, sandwiched in a birdie at the par-5 12th. Vlahakis 6-foot birdie bid at the par-5 18th to move the team to 11 under slipped just past the hole.
“I played a little too much break – it was just a little too much,” Vlahakis said.
As Andrews-Vlahakis waited in the clubhouse at 10 under, Decker-Shingler had more work to do. Shingler firmed in a slippery 3-footer from above the hole at the par-5 17th. And with Decker in the thick rough at the last and bound for bogey, Shingler kept it in the short grass and made par from just short of the putting surface to secure the victory.
Decker-Shingler played bogey-free over the course of the championship’s 36 holes. In the four-ball format, each player plays his ball into the hole, but only the best score is counted toward the team’s total.
“Obviously, when you look at winning by one shot, having a clean card was important,” Shingler said.
The owner of an enviable and powerfully efficient golf swing, with the triumph, Shingler is a win away from what Decker refers to as the ‘VSGA Grand Slam’ – victories at the VSGA Amateur, the SunTrust State Open, the Mid-Amateur and the Four-Ball. In addition to claiming the 2011 Amateur, Shingler won the Mid-Amateur in 2010 and is only a SunTrust State Open win away from accomplishing a rare feat. Only Decker and former Galax resident Tom McKnight have won all four titles since the VSGA Mid-Amateur was first conducted in 1977.
“If you look at what I consider the VSGA ‘Grand Slam,’ I look at Scott and think he has a wonderful chance,” Decker said.
The Decker-Shingler partnership was almost one that didn’t happen. Decker’s daughter, Christina will graduate from the College of William & Mary with a degree in psychology on Sunday; had commencement been on Friday or Saturday, Decker admitted that he would’ve missed the Four-Ball and Shingler would’ve had to find a different partner.
“This tournament is the second-most important thing happening this weekend,” Decker said.
Shingler knows the feeling. He and his wife, Arshia, will celebrate their daughter, Aava’s sixth birthday on Saturday, which meant he was high-tailing it back to northern Virginia following the event’s conclusion.
“See, Keith’s OK,” Shingler said with a laugh. “I better get home.”
He’ll do it with victory – and a step closer to a special place in VSGA history – in hand.
View results for Virginia Four-Ball Golf Championship