Mark Lawrence, Jr. (VSGA photo)
By Chris Lang
Mark Lawrence Jr.’s historic blitz of Ballyhack Golf Club came to an end on Saturday afternoon with a tap-in for par at 18, giving him a three-day total of 200 and the championship at the Delta Dental State Open of Virginia. The victory was a long time coming for an accomplished amateur who has been agonizingly close to holding the Farmington Cup twice in the last five years.
Richmond’s Lawrence, a member at Independence Golf Club who is set to complete his college golf career at Virginia Tech whenever the pandemic will allow, opened with a 9-under-par 63 on Thursday and never let anyone have a realistic hope of catching him. His steady 3-under 69 on Saturday left him with a place in the State Open record book, at least for the seven events held at Ballyhack.
He shattered the previous low score of 204, set by Fielding Brewbaker and current PGA Tour member Lanto Griffin. His opening round tied his own Ballyhack competitive course record (also shared by Ballyhack member Justin Young, who shot a three-day 207 to finish second this week.) And he became the second member of an ultra-exclusive club of players who have won the State Open, VSGA Amateur and VSGA Junior Stroke Play championships.
The other? World Golf Hall of Famer Lanny Wadkins.
“I’ll have to mention that to Bobby the next time I see him at Kinloch,” Lawrence joked, referring to Wadkins’ brother.
To anyone who has played with Lawrence lately, this week’s showing came of little surprise.
“I played with him in the practice round, and I think everybody in our group saw this coming,” said Mikey Moyers, who shot a three-day 208 to finish third. “We were like, if he hits it like this, we have no chance. He hits hit higher and farther than all of us. There are certain shots you have to hit here high and with spin, and he can do that.
“He was just playing a different game.”
Lawrence led by four strokes after Thursday and seven strokes when Friday’s suspended second round was completed early Saturday morning. His lead never dipped below four strokes in the final round. His bogey on No. 3 opened the door just a tiny crack, but he made key birdies on Nos. 5, 9 and 11 to slam it shut once again.
Loving Ballyhack hasn’t always been easy for Lawrence, who in 2014 shared his displeasure of the track on social media after a few tough rounds in his first appearance at the course.
“When I was 14, you know, I thought you hit driver on every hole, I thought you went at every flagstick, I thought you went at every putt. I was just dumb,” Lawrence said. “Honestly, this course has taught me a lot about how to play golf, and I feel like I get a little bit better every year that I come here and play. It’s about learning how to attack and approach a golf course instead of just bombing driver all day. And it’s honestly become one of my favorite golf courses.
“It’s funny, I hit two drivers today. In 2014, I bet you I hit seven. I was just dumb. You can’t do that.”
Because of the tone set Thursday, the field’s only chance of rallying involved Lawrence backing up over the event’s next two days. With only two bogeys over the course of 54 holes, that opportunity never materialized.
“He’s too good of a player not to win,” Young said. “He just has a different game than everybody else. He’s always played well here. For him to win, it’s really no surprise. He’s been very close. Now for him to finally get the win, my hat’s off to him.”
John O’Leary, PGA, of Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, earned low professional honors with a three-day 209 and finished fourth overall. After struggling to a 74 on Thursday, a round that included a few “rough Ballyhack bounces,” he said, O’Leary switched putters for the final two rounds and returned 69 and 66 to finish a shot clear of Roanoke’s Michael Wade.
“I really hit my irons decent, and that gave me some good looks,” O’Leary said of his Saturday 66. “I had a couple of key up and downs that really kept my round going.”
Next up for O’Leary is a trip to the PGA Championship at Harding Park Aug. 6-9. He earned his way into the field by finishing in the top 20 of the 2019 PGA Player of the Year list. O’Leary will be one of 18 club professionals to compete in the event.
Wade and Forest amateur Marshall Tinsley (Winton Farm) finished tied for fifth at 210. Tinsley is the reigning VSGA Mid-Amateur champion.
View results for State Open of Virigina
ABOUT THE State Open of Virigina
The Championship is a 54-hole, stroke play event
the field limited to 144 contestants (69 eligible
Professionals, 69 eligible Amateurs, the Defending
Champion, and 5 Open Qualifier spots). There will be
cut to the low 60 players and ties after 36 holes.
to VSGA members of all ages. Participants must hold
active GHIN number issued by a licensed VSGA
Club in good standing.
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