RICHMOND, Va. (Sept. 19, 2014) — Amateur Roger Newsom of Virginia Beach knocked in a short birdie putt at the finishing hole to post a final round 4-under 68 and notch a one-stroke victory as the 9th Senior Open of Virginia concluded on Friday at The Country Club of Virginia’s Tuckahoe Creek Course.
Making his debut appearance in the event, the 50-year-old Newsom delivered his second consecutive round of four under par to finish with an 8-under 136 aggregate and register a wire-to-wire win. John Francisco (Westminster, Md.), the PGA director of instruction at Piney Branch Golf and Country Club in Upperco, Md., (Baltimore area) matched his fellow-competitor’s 68 and finished one stroke back (7-under 137). Williamsburg-based amateur Dave Pulk also returned 68 and closed play three off the pace (5-under 139). The championship is open to amateurs and professionals, ages 50 and older.
The outcome was decided at the par-5 18th hole. Newsom and Francisco both stood at seven under par for the event and each faced delicate 20-yard pitch shots from just in front of the putting surface on their third shots. First to play, Newsom’s shot landed on the green, rolled toward the hole and even caught a piece of the hole before coming to rest 3 feet away. Francisco also played a nice third shot that settled close to the hole.
Neither competitor had a gimmie, though, especially on the layout’s slick putting surfaces. Newsom’s birdie putt hit the left edge of the hole and fell in. Facing a slightly sidehill putt just inside of Newsom’s, Francisco’s chance caught a lot of the hole, but his ball somehow horseshoed out.
Newsom showed a steely nerve all day and nowhere was it more evident than on his last two shots that helped him secure the title.
“I’ve been in that situation before and it’s like you’re used to it,” said Newsom, who will have his name engraved on the Harry W. Easterly Jr. Trophy, honoring the late Virginia State Golf Association and United States Golf Association president. “I was trying to make the chip shot, because I thought there was a 50-50 chance he was going to make his. I felt comfortable pretty much the whole day. I wouldn’t wish that (Francisco’s miss) on anyone.
“John played a perfect round and he just hiccupped at the last hole—and I just hate that.”
Said Francisco of his birdie chance from close range that would’ve forced extra holes: “I didn’t think it was going to move, but I should’ve hit it harder. I fanned it a little bit. It happens.”
Newsom, Francisco and PGA professional Jon Corliss of Virginia Beach were in the same group of three on the last day. Newsom began the final round with a one-stroke lead over Francisco and after both competitors shot two under par on the outward half, Newsom retained his slim advantage. Francisco took the lead with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 10 and 11, knocking in a 3-footer to start the second nine before draining an 8-footer at the ensuing hole.
At the par-3 14th, it was Newsom’s turn to answer, holing a delicate downhill left-to-right breaking 14-footer, tying both players at seven under par.
His clinching putt notwithstanding, Newsom, an ophthalmologist in Virginia Beach, showed a surgeon’s touch in the late moments. He calmly negotiated a 35-foot sidehill putt at the par-4 16th hole, two-putting for par. And, one hole later, he two-putted from 40-plus feet as his birdie chance climbed a large slope before knocking in a 3-footer for par.
The layout’s slick, undulating greens serve as the course’s primary defense and putts can easily wander off, resulting in three-putts—or, in some cases, worse.
“I’m pretty solid in making 2- or 3-footers if I have to. The long putts don’t scare me,” Newsom said. “I love the greens here. They putt true. I got it done.”
Though Newsom has made starts in competitive events on a sporadic basis due to obligations with his medical practice, it didn’t seem to matter even during seemingly nerve-rattling pressure in the final round.
“It’s kind of like, ‘Well, do I still have it?’ Yeah, I think I do,” he said.
For his part, Francisco, who put together a sound round in the long game, burnt the edge of the hole on no less than four or five birdie chances—though it’s a safe bet that Newsom could express the same sentiment.
“It was 36 holes of some of the best ball striking I’ve had,” said Francisco, who went without a three-putt on the last day. “I told Jon (Corliss) that I probably turned 62 into 68 today—very easily. But I can’t complain about it. Some of the greens are very difficult to read. I hit some putts that I thought were in the right spot, but it wasn’t the right spot. Overall, my pace was good.”
Pulk logged six birdies against two bogeys and was within one stroke of the lead following a birdie at No. 16 before ultimately taking home second low amateur accolades.
With his Senior Open of Virginia victory, Newsom became one of four players to own wins in the State Open of Virginia and the Senior Open. Newsom won the State Open in 2008 and 2011. The others to hold both titles are Corliss (2008 Senior Open and 2003 State Open winner) and fellow PGA professional Rick Schuller of Chester (2013 Senior Open and 1988 State Open victor) as well as amateur Keith Decker of Martinsville (2010 Senior Open as well as the 1996, 2001 and 2002 State Open champion).
Newsom admittedly couldn’t help but turn his thoughts to friend and fellow Virginia Beach amateur Ralph Knapp, who is battling kidney cancer.
“I thought about him a lot the past two days,” said Newsom, who thanked and dedicated the victory to his wife, Susan, in the closing ceremony. “If you hit a bad shot, how bad can you have it? Some of this is in honor of him. He loves golf as much as anybody on this earth.”
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