SUFFOLK –– Central Virginian Tim Kelley (Ashland) dropped in a 10-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole, the par-4 first, to score a 19-hole victory over fellow 56-year-old Steve Williams (Yorktown) to win the 65th Virginia State Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship at Cedar Point Country Club. The championship is open to golfers ages 55 and older.
Kelley, the top-ranked senior amateur in the VSGA player rankings entering the championship, became the first player to ever win the VSGA Senior Four-Ball, the Senior Stroke Play and the Senior Amateur titles in the same year. He owns four senior victories since turning 55 in October 2010, having claimed last year’s VSGA Senior Stroke Play.
“All in all, I’m tickled to death. It’s been a great year,” said Kelley, who plays and practices at The Federal Club and Hanover Country Club. “This is huge for me, no doubt. But I have to give credit to my wife [Laura]. I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
Williams, a retired Air Force colonel, played steadily in the early-going and made birdie at the par-5 sixth hole to go 1 up. Kelley answered back and drained consecutive birdie putts inside 15 feet at Nos. 7 and 8 to go one hole up.
On the second nine, Kelley converted a nice up and down from the greenside bunker at the par-5 14th hole, making a 6-footer for birdie, before stuffing his approach shot to 4 feet for an eventual birdie at the ensuing hole to go dormie-3 with a shot at history well within his sights.
“I was pumped. I was stoked,” Kelley said. “It was the only time all day – it’s the only time I thought about it – but I thought, ‘If I get one more halve, I’ll be the only guy in Virginia history to…”
Upon reflection, his words trailed off, knowing the dangers of looking ahead. Williams played a crisp 6-iron to 20 feet at the par-3 16th to get within two after Kelley missed on a 7-footer for par. Williams scored a par win at the par-5 17th after Kelley was faced with a long bunker shot on his third and made an eventual bogey.
At the par-4 18th, Williams’ second shot came to rest in the back bunker, but with the putting surface running away from him and looking at a water hazard on the other side, he blasted a 58-degree wedge shot to 6 feet.
“It was a scary shot, but I knew I had to get it up and down,” said Williams, a member at Eaglewood Golf Course, a military course at Langley Air Force Base.
After Kelley made a 9-footer for bogey, Williams calmly knocked in his putt for par to continue the match, wiping out the late deficit.
“I just tried to keep grinding and concentrating,” Williams said.
Faced with some tree trouble on his second shot on the right side at the 19th hole, Kelley saw opportunity. He had to play a three-quarter 9-iron, a shot he and his instructor Mike Hott, the PGA professional at Salisbury Country Club, work on regularly during lessons.
“I’ve probably hit 200 of those shots in the last month,” Kelley said. “I said to myself, ‘Just do it.’ ”
Kelley pulled off the three-quarter punch second shot from through the green brilliantly at the 19th; the shot took a bounce on the putting surface before settling below the hole.
Williams was in between clubs on his pitching wedge second shot and came up short. He was then faced with an awkward chip that had to clear a portion of a greenside bunker. The shot hit a downslope and rolled out to 13 feet and he missed on the par-saver. For Williams, the misplay on his second shot proved to be costly.
“Obviously, he put a little pressure on me to hit a good shot,” Williams said.
Kelley ended the match by holing the slightly right-to-left breaking birdie putt. In addition to etching his name on the H.M “Bunny” Blankinship Trophy, honoring the past VSGA president (1959-60), Kelley admits he gained some takeaway lessons.
“Winning was the goal, but it’s a plus to win this way,” Kelley said. “It’s a plus for me because I learned something over those last four holes.”
View results for Virginia Senior Amateur Golf Championship