Jeff Long and Kyle Bailey (VSGA photo)
KESWICK, Va. (October 28, 2018) — Jeff Long was first to hit on the 3rd green at Keswick Golf Club on Sunday. On the 21st hole of the regular division final match of the 4th VSGA Four-Ball Match Play Championship, the other three players in the match were all inside of Long, meaning he got first crack at the cup.
He didn’t overthink it. He’d hit that putt so many times over the course of the weekend—long, straight, uphill—that he just took aim at the hole and hit it. When 25 feet later, it rolled to the bottom of the cup, he let out a “Boom! Let’s go!” before celebrating with partner Kyle Bailey. That birdie putt proved to be the clincher in a marathon match, giving Long and Bailey the 21-hole win over Jordan Utley and Dustin Groves.
Behind them, the senior division championship match had also extended to the third green. Skip Zobel and Neil Davis each hit fantastic approach shots to set up excellent birdie opportunities, and it appeared the match may continue later into the afternoon.
Zobel drilled his 6-foot birdie putt, but Davis hit his tricky little 3-footer a little too hard and through the break, and it slid off to the right. Zobel and partner Dave Pulk had escaped with a 21-hole win over Davis and Randy Newsome for their second straight Four-Ball Match Play title.
Long’s title was his first in a VSGA championship. Bailey earned his second, and he added his name to the list of players who had won championships in both of the VSGA’s Four-Ball Championships (stroke and match play).
“I’m in the club,” Long said. “I finally have a Virginia state title, and it feels pretty good. They made us work for it, though.”
No doubt. Long and Bailey won in 20 holes on the edge of darkness Saturday evening and returned for a 21-hole marathon on Sunday. Said Bailey, “I’m sure I’ll be sore tomorrow, but I’m not really feeling anything right now.”
Long and Bailey rallied from two down after 10 holes. Utley (Independence GC) missed a birdie chance on 11 that would have extended the lead to 3 up, and Long (Evergreen CC) responded on 12 by making a 20-foot eagle putt to cut the lead to 1 up. The match remained that way until 18, when Long dialed up one of his best shots of the tournament
He stuck his approach (quite literally) on the par-4 closing hole to two feet, his ball nearly cratering the soft Keswick green. Utley and Groves had decent birdie chances that would have closed out the match, but neither converted. Long tapped in his birdie to extend the match.
“We certainly, I think, gave away a few chances through there, even maybe to close out,” Groves said. “I hit a good chip on 17, and you saw it hit the stick and rattle out. … That’s just how match play goes. We had shots to win the match, and we didn’t do it. If you don’t take advantage of things like that, Jeff and Kyle are good enough players that they’ll beat you.”
Newsome (Dominion Valley CC) and Davis (Birdwood GC) first had to defeat Jim Woodson (Mill Quarter Plantation) and David Jordan (Willow Oaks CC) in the morning in their semifinal match that was suspended by darkness Saturday, and they did so when Davis made birdie on No. 4 to win that match in 22 holes.
They carried that momentum into the title match and held a 2-up lead through 11 holes. But the defending champs chipped away. Zobel (Princess Anne CC) made birdie on the par-5 12th to cut the lead in half, and he bombed in a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 14 to square the match.
“We didn’t start off playing very well, but then Skip started playing great,” said Pulk, a member at Two Rivers CC. “When he started to struggle a bit, I picked it up. It’s just one of those things where it came down to who made the last putt, and Skip made the last putt. We were fortunate to win.”
Pulk and Zobel certainly know how to grind through tight matches, having won last year’s senior division title at The Federal Club in 19 holes.
“It’s just one of those things where one team has to win and one has to lose,” Pulk said. “And we were on the fortunate side again.”