Leaderboard crowded at Virginia Four-Ball
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (May 10, 2013) –– Virginia Beach residents Wes Smith and Matt Hopkins delivered a scintillating first round score of 8-under-par 62 to headline a packed leaderboard entering Saturday’s final day of the 48th Virginia State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship being conducted at James River Country Club.

Smith-Hopkins are two strokes ahead of the tandem of Vincent Nadeau and Brad Ferguson of Gordonsville (Charlottesville area) and 2008 champions Roger Newsom and Robert Bradshaw, who each opened with 6-under 64. A contingent of four teams at 5-under 65 includes defending champions Scott Shingler (Haymarket)-Keith Decker (Martinsville) and former winner Larry Loving Jr. (Richmond) teaming with former State Open winner Jerry Wood (Martinsville), as well as Arlington residents Brandon Cigna-James Chestnut and Joe Morton (Virginia Beach)-Richard Hanna (Stanardsville).

Altogether, 14 teams are within four shots of the lead entering the deciding day.

The Smith-Hopkins tandem got off to a scorching start to their round, birdieing five of the first six and six of their first eight holes to shoot 5-under 30 on the outward half. Each tallied three birdies apiece in accounting for six early birdies with Hopkins draining the team’s longest putt during that stretch, a 20-footer at the par-3 third hole.

The second nine signaled a return back to planet earth, of sorts, but they played bogey-free with birdies at Nos. 10, 12 and 18—each birdie came inside 10 feet. The partners, who play regularly together at Sleepy Hole Golf Course in Suffolk, complemented each other well the whole way. They reached the championship through qualifying at Bide-A-Wee Golf Course.

“We definitely hammed-and-egged it,” Smith said. “I hit kind of a long ball and he is probably one of the best putters I’ve ever played with. When he has a 15-footer, you expect it to go in.”

Hopkins, 28, played college golf at Christopher Newport University, which is near James River Country Club, and has played the course more than a half-dozen times. That said, Hopkins attributed having the right mindset going into the round with their success.

“It’s all mental. Everyone out here is pretty much at the same level,” Hopkins said. “We go out and look at it as a game. There are going to be days when we light it up and other days when we can’t break 75. It’s fun to go out and play with someone who looks at it the same way you do—more of a game than a competition. Of course, a little local course knowledge never hurts.”

Nadeau-Ferguson also took apart Nos. 1-9 by shooting 5-under 30, but it would be on there inward nine as they started their round on No. 10. Ferguson’s putter caught fire on the first two holes of their back nine, knocking in birdie putts of 40 and 20 feet, respectively. Nadeau drained a 20-footer two holes later, Ferguson made eagle from 8 feet at their 15th hole of the day, the par-5 16th, before Nadeau closed the round with a short birdie putt.

The two VSGA members play regularly at Spring Creek Golf Club in Gordonsville as a part of a Saturday morning group and know each other’s game. They survived a six-for-four playoff to get into the championship through qualifying at Bide-A-Wee Golf Course. These days it’s a safe bet they have good vibes entering the event—they won last week’s Belle Haven Four-Ball by two strokes.

“I’m steady and sneak in a few birdies here and there,” Nadeau said. “Brad is more aggressive and makes a lot of birdies, so it’s a good partnership for four-ball.”

Newsom-Bradshaw, regular partners at the VSGA Four-Ball, finished their round birdie-birdie to hover near the lead. Newsom’s birdie putts were from kick-in range at Nos. 17 and 18.

“There are a lot of good teams out there,” Newsom said, “but I think we can hang with ’em.”

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