2021 Virginia Amateur champion Jimmy Taylor (photo: Virginia Golf Association)
first picked up a golf club when he was about 8 years old, but it didn’t become his main sport until several years later, when he didn’t earn a spot on the Gonzaga College High School basketball team and decided to change his athletic focus.
Sometimes things just have a way of working out. A bit of a late bloomer, Taylor—who lives in Alexandria and is a member at Belle Haven Country Club—earned a spot on the Gonzaga golf roster by his junior year and was winning events by the time he was a senior.
His career ascendency reached new heights this week at Country Club of Petersburg, as he rolled through the 108th Virginia State Golf Association Amateur Championship, winning five matches, capped by Friday’s 7-and-6 win in the 36-hole final against Midlothian’s Jordan Utley
“Definitely the biggest accomplishment of my career,” a smiling Taylor said afterward.
A rising junior at William & Mary, Taylor didn’t strike the ball consistently great this week, but he more than made up for it with chipping and putting. On Friday, he jumped on Utley early. He won the first two holes and never let Utley—a three-time finalist—catch up. The lead increased to 4 up by the end of the morning round.
Utley (Hermitage CC) was no stranger to facing such a deficit. In 2014 at Spring Creek Golf Club, he trailed Jake Mondy
by the same score after 18, but quickly turned the momentum after lunch, eventually extending the match to the 36th hole before Mondy won.
On Friday, Taylor stepped on the pedal after lunch, winning the first two holes to go 6 up. Utley never found a groove with his putter, and it was only a matter of time before Taylor closed the match. He did so on the 12th hole when both players made par.
The tale of the match was quite simple. Taylor’s putter was on, Utley’s was not.
“Today was a tough day,” Utley said. “Sometimes you have them. I wish it wouldn’t have been in the finals of the State Am. But he had a really, really good day putting and I couldn’t match it. Clearly, the people that watched today, they could see that was the difference. If you can’t get the ball to the hole over the course of 36 holes, you just don’t have a chance.”
Added Taylor: “He hit it really well and played really solid. He just couldn’t get any putts to go.”
Taylor had friend and Tribe teammate Matthew Feinstein
on the bag for the match-play portion of the championship, and Feinstein played a big role in keeping Taylor grounded any time things started to go awry. Taylor, the No. 22 seed in the event, needed 19 holes to defeat Patrick Gareiss in the first round and won on the 18th in matches against Connor Johnson
and Evan Beck
Tribe coach Tim Pemberton followed Taylor for much of the final two days.
“He’s been so close all spring, but he hadn’t really put it all together,” Pemberton said. “He works harder than anybody. We knew he had this in him. It’s nice to see him come out and play like this. Obviously, the putter, the way he was rolling it this week, it was pretty special for him to do that in pressure situations like this.”
Taylor has made deep runs in match play in the past. He fell to Bryan Lee in the final of the 2019 VSGA Junior Match Play Championship and advanced to the semifinals of the Amateur the following week at Keswick. After some shaky ball striking in stroke-play qualifying this week, he knew he just needed to earn a spot inside the top 32 so he could recalibrate for the final three days of the event.
“This is my favorite tournament all year long, every year,” Taylor said. “I love match play, and I always tell myself if I can get into match play that I’m tough to beat. I think I can beat anyone I tee it up against.”
Taylor was the first alternate from his qualifying site for the upcoming State Open of Virginia, but he won’t have to worry about waiting for a call now. The Amateur victory gives him a spot in the State Open field. This week was the start of a big summer for Taylor, who looks to continue to improve as he heads into his junior season in Williamsburg.
“It definitely gives me a lot of confidence,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of crazy. I really didn’t expect this going into the week. I wasn’t hitting it great. I just kind of found something with the putter and the ball striking caught up with me. … This is awesome. My favorite tournament of the year, such a great one to win.”
by Chris Lang, VSGA’s manager of media and communications
ABOUT THE Virginia Amateur
36 holes of stroke play qualifying (18 holes per
the low 32 players advance to match play. Non-
players must pre-qualify. Open to VSGA members of
ages. Participants must hold an active GHIN number
issued by a licensed VSGA Member Club in good
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