VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (June 30, 2012) –– A storybook week had a happy ending on Saturday for Blacksburg’s Jake Mondy as the 99th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship concluded at the 7,100-yard, par 72 Bayville Golf Club.
Back at the site where his late father last saw his son play his last round of golf, Mondy, 21, scored a 4 and 2 victory over mid-amateur Buck Brittain, 45, of Tazewell in Saturday’s scheduled 36-hole final.
A rising sophomore at Auburn University, Mondy claimed his first VSGA Amateur title. Mondy made good on his aspiration to win one for his late father, Dave, who died of a heart attack at age 56 on Oct. 26, 2010, about two weeks after Jake represented the Virginias team against their Carolinas counterparts at the Captain’s Putter Matches.
Mondy made some clutch putts on the second nine in the afternoon session to take home the Schwarzschild Brothers Trophy awarded to the champion.
“I know he was looking down on me today,” Mondy said. “I’m sure on a couple of those putts that I made on the back nine, he might’ve kicked them in for me. I know he was watching every step of the way.”
Mondy became the first western Virginian to win the VSGA Amateur since Martinsville’s Keith Decker captured the last of his two titles in 1991. He’s also the second player from the region to have his name on the VSGA Amateur and VSGA Junior Stroke Play trophies; Mondy won the 2010 Junior at Roanoke Country Club and repeated last year at Cedar Point Country Club in Suffolk. Martinsville’s Steve Smith won the Junior crown in 1974 and notched a victory at the VSGA Amateur five years later. Mondy also became the first player to hold the Junior Stroke Play and Amateur titles in the same rotation since Brinson Paolini of Virginia Beach claimed both championships in 2008.
Owner of a two holes up lead, after lunch, Mondy seized further control of the match at the 21st hole, the par-4 third, where he played a brilliant iron shot from a thick lie with trees obstructing his view on the right side.
“Get on it,” he said as the ball headed straight toward the flagstick.
It did. The ball came to rest 14 inches from the hole and he pushed his lead to a match-high 3-up.
Brittain had some opportunities to make inroads and finally saw some putts fall midway through the afternoon session, curling in a 16-footer at the 28th hole, the par-4 ninth to get within two.
“That guy is a like a bad dream – he just won’t go away,” commented a spectator in reference to Brittain’s gritty play all week.
Brittain kept cutting into the deficit. After draining a 12-foot right to left slider for birdie at the 29th hole, the par-4 10th, Brittain narrowed the margin to one, which was as close as he was in the match since the 10th hole in the morning.
For all of his overpowering length, Mondy hit some wayward tee shots in the afternoon, but his short game helped him maintain the advantage. He nearly tugged his tee shot into the water hazard on the left at the 29th hole, the par-4 11th. With his right shoe and sock off, he punched out from inside the hazard and played an iron third shot to 35 feet left of the hole. Brittain was safely on the putting surface in two and appeared ready to square the match.
But Mondy didn’t flinch, finding the perfect line on the big left-to-right breaking par chance. He chased the ball to the hole just as it tumbled in the center to earn what once appeared an unlikely halve.
They’re the kind of gutsy saves that help golfers win the VSGA’s most prestigious championship.
“I hit a great putt. It’s one of the best putts I’ve ever hit,” Mondy said.
Mondy then won the final three holes to close the match. Brittain’s birdie putt looked destined for the hole at the 32nd, but it somehow missed and he couldn’t convert on the 4-foot comebacker as Mondy went 2 up.
“That [first] putt was a little fast, but it was right on line,” Brittain said. “I thought it was in the whole way. It didn’t go, I three-putted and that sort of drained me at that point.”
Mondy moved the dormie-3 by getting up and down from the greenside bunker at the 33rd hole of the encounter, the par-5 15th, where knocked in a slippery downhill 4-footer for birdie. He closed the match one hole later, accounting for a conceded birdie after Brittain misplayed his chip shot from a swale to the right of the putting surface.
The putts that seemingly fell all week for the ever-steady and consistent Brittain went awry on some half-dozen occasions in the afternoon. He could only double over in disbelief as chances for wins and halves went by the edge.
“They were close,” said Brittain, second among points’ leaders in the VSGA player rankings entering the event. “I hit a lot that I thought were on line and at the end, they would break out of the hole.”
Ultimately, Mondy produced more moments of brilliance in sweltering heat and accompanying pressure of the deciding encounter. Counting the concessions that are typically a part of match play, Mondy was four under par in the final.
Brittain, who exchanged friendly conversation with Mondy the entire way, came away impressed.
“He didn’t give up. There were a few times where I was thinking, ‘I have a position,’ but he kept fighting,” Brittain said. “He hits it so long, for him this course is what? A par 67? That’s a huge advantage. He has a great short game. Early on, I had him putting several of those 3- and 4-footers and he made all of them. He’s a solid player all-around.
“Jake’s a great young guy and a heck of a good golfer.”
For Mondy, the victory couldn’t have come at a better location. Perhaps it was destined to be his day.
“It’s pretty cool. It’s one of a kind. I can’t even put it into words right now,” he said. “”I mean, this is the last place my dad ever saw me hit a golf shot. I know he was looking out for me today.”
Mondy’s girlfriend and mother, Bernadette, arrived in Virginia Beach on Friday evening. The storm that rumbled through Blacksburg forced Mondy’s mother to return to the New River Junction campground that the family owns on the New River. It’s a safe bet she was following the match on the VSGA website.
“She has an iPhone. She’s probably figured out how to work it by now after a while,” Jake said with a laugh. “I’m sure she was following it.”
Facing a modest one-hole down deficit in the morning, Mondy won three of five holes from Nos. 9-13 to grab a 2-up lead. His putter caught fire during the surge, draining putts of 12 feet at No. 9 and 14 feet one hole later to take a lead he wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the way.
Brittain, battling to find fairways and greens, didn’t get up and down at the par-3 13th after Mondy stuffed his tee shot to close range. At the par-5 15th, Mondy mashed his tee shot and made a good left-to-right breaking 6-footer for birdie to move to a morning-high three holes up. Brittain drained a must-have 10-footer for par and a halve at the par-3 16th.
He then won the par-5 18th, chipping to 4 feet and faced a palatable two holes down deficit at lunch after missing four greens in regulation in a five-hole span from Nos. 13-17. But Brittain wouldn’t get the match to all-square the rest of the way thanks to Mondy’s stellar all-around play and timely putting.
Where does the VSGA Amateur victory rank among Mondy’s golf accomplishments?
“Definitely the highest. It’s way above anything else,” he said. “Just the fact that it’s at Bayville and to do it against Buck, who I think the world of. You know what? We had fun out there today.”
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