SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (May 22, 2013) –– The team of James Gallagher (Yorktown) and Jim Nirich (Catlett) shot a scorching first round score of 10-under-par 62 and own a two-stroke lead entering Thursday’s final day of the 31st Virginia State Golf Association Senior Four-Ball Championship being conducted at Fawn Lake Country Club.
Gallagher and Nirich’s score is a shot off the event’s all-time single-round record of 61 shot by northern Virginian’s Bob Morris and Pat Tallent on the final day of the 2011 championship at Spring Creek Golf Club.
Even with their spectacular round, Gallagher and Nirich’s closest pursuers are two of the commonwealth’s best players in Keith Decker (Martinsville) and David Partridge (Manakin), who returned an opening day 8-under 64. Locals Tim Krouse (Dunn Loring) and Larry Spielberg (Gainesville) had 6-under 66 and are four off the pace. Fellow northern Virginians Dan DeRisio (Springfield) and Buddy Patch (Fairfax Station) carded 5-under 67.
Looking comfortable throughout the round, Gallagher-Nirich played bogey-free with 10 birdies and fired at flagsticks all day. Nirich shot 64 on his own ball, while Gallagher shot 67 in his own right. After two early birdies, they combined to run off five straight birdies to close the first nine to log a scintillating score of 7-under 29. In the run from Nos. 5-9, Nirich got things going by snaking in a 45-footer at the par-4 fifth, but the rest of their birdies in that stretch came inside 15 inches, with the exception of the par-3 eighth, where Nirich made a 25-footer.
Talk about momentum—they had plenty entering the second nine where they added three more birdies at Nos. 11, 13 and 16.
“It was a phenomenal front nine. We were pretty pumped up, I mean 29? How often do you do that?” said Gallagher, a retired Air Force bombardier. “Our iron play was just as good on the back nine, but we were just a hair off on the reads—maybe a quarter inch.”
Gallagher and Nirich are partnering together for the first time, but immediately found a comfort level thanks to their similar styles of play.
“We complement each other well,” Nirich said. “We hit the ball similar distances, so we tend to choose the same club from the tee and hit the same club a lot of times on approaches. We even see the same breaks and have the same putting style.”
It’s no surprise that Decker-Partridge are near the top of the leaderboard. Longtime partners in the regular VSGA Four-Ball, they teamed for three titles in 1999, 2001 and 2002. They showed the strength of their team in the first round, firing 6-under 30 on the outward half, highlighted by Decker’s eagle-3 at the par-5 sixth hole where he stuffed his 6-iron approach to 4 feet.
Four of their eight birdies came on the inward half, but two bogeys on that side left them a pair of strokes off the pace.
“I can’t tell you how many tournaments David and I have played together—it’s a lot, but we let each other down a couple of times today,” Decker said. “We still played pretty well, just a couple of hiccup bogeys.
“Obviously [Gallagher-Nirich] played well and they’re going to be mighty tough to beat [Thursday]. They team together well.”
Gallagher-Nirich will be in the final grouping with Decker-Partridge on the last day.
“We know those guys, they’re friends, we respect them and I think they would say the same thing about us,” said Gallagher, who retired from the Air Force in 2008 after 27 years of service and multiple tours of duty in the Middle East.“They’re two of the best of all-time. We’ll just go out and enjoy the round.”
Krouse logged five of the team’s seven birdies, including all four on the inward nine, but credited his partner with helping to keep their round going by getting up and down for par from 80 yards at the par-4 16th.
“I was on my way to making a 12—basically in my pocket,” Krouse said with a laugh. “That was a round-saver.”
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