MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (July 17, 2011) –– Amateur Roger Newsom’s consistent play earned him a six-stroke lead entering Sunday’s final round of the 2011 SunTrust State Open of Virginia.
That same characteristic helped the 47-year-old South Hampton Roads ophthalmologist blow past the field and post an eight-stroke, wire-to-wire victory as the championship concluded today at Independence Golf Club.
Newsom delivered a steady final-day 1-under 71 and finished with an 18-under-par 270 aggregate, following rounds of 65-67-67 the first three days.
Newsom (pictured center, with C.T. Hill, CEO of SunTrust Mid-Atlanitc, left, and VSGA board member E. Lee Coble) the 2008 SunTrust State Open champion, became the sixth player since the two Opens merged 27 years ago to take home multiple titles. He’s also the 20th competitor in the championship’s 111-year history to have his name on the title more than once.
“In the back of my mind – no one really understands this – but for me it was: ‘Was the first State Open a fluke for me?’ said Newsom, fighting back his emotions with red-eyed pride. “I wondered if it was just a fluke or if I’m a good golfer. I think I proved myself today and I feel a lot better. I got it done.”
Amateurs occupied three of the top four spots on the leader board. Defending champion and amateur Evan Beck (Virginia Beach), 20, a rising junior at Wake Forest, and PGA professional Rick Schuller (Chester), each delivered final-round best scores of 6-under 66 to finish at 10-under 278. Schuller, the 1998 champion, earned low professional honors. Stanardsville’s Mikey Moyers (2-under 70 on Sunday), a 20-year-old rising junior at Virginia Tech, closed at 9-under 279.
Professional Faber Jamerson of Appomattox, the PGA general manager at Falling River Country Club, six strokes back of Newsom and his closest pursuer entering the final round, shot 75. Jamerson, 34, played the final four holes in four under par to finish at 8-under 280, along with professional Jimmy Flippen Jr. of Danville (final round 4-under 68).
Newsom registered three birdies and two bogeys and held an eight-stroke lead most of the way in becoming the first competitor since Jamerson in 2009 to never relinquish the top spot after holding the lead after the first day. His eight-stroke margin of victory was also the largest in the event’s history since 1999 when Jamerson won by the same margin in taking home his first State Open title as an amateur at Ford’s Colony Country Club in Williamsburg.
Newsom shot one over on the first nine, but made clutch par putts at Nos. 9 (15 feet) and 11 (12 feet) to retain his huge advantage. They’re the type of holed putts that keep momentum and win significant titles like the SunTrust State Open.
“The key putts were on 9 and 11. When I made that putt on [No.] 9, it raised my factor of just trying as hard as I can try about this high,” Newsom said, thrusting his right hand above his head.
Jamerson, playing in the same grouping with Newsom, bogeyed the first two holes, made birdie at the par-4 fifth hole, but played Nos. 7 and 8 in three over par (bogey-double bogey) to fall out of contention prior to his late scoring flurry.
Newsom’s grit-your-teeth intensity boiled up again on the second nine, playing bogey free while hitting seven of nine greens in regulation on the inward half. He registered birdies at the two par 5s, two-putting for birdie at No. 13 before knocking in a 12-footer from right of the hole at No. 17, stretching his arms out as the putt fell as if to indicate, ‘Everything has gone right.’ He knocked in a downhill 9-footer at the last, clenching and shaking his right fist as the ball dropped in the center of the hole.
“I was working as hard as I could work,” said Newsom, who is believe to be the event’s oldest champion since Virginia amateur legend Vinny Giles claimed the 1993 event at Richmond’s Willow Oaks Country Club as a 50-year-old. “The last day, the pressure ramps up about 100 percent, so you have to try to ramp up your game. It’s harder to play the last day like you do the first day. You’re kind of loose and free-wheeling the first day and the last day, you know what’s on the line.
“I hit my driver straight most of the time. On holes where you don’t have to hit driver, I think I managed my game pretty well. At my age, I know what to do to stay away from trouble.”
For Newsom, his victory marks the first time since the Open’s merger that separate amateurs have won in consecutive years. And it signals the second straight year that the Farmington Cup (overall champion) and Fritz Souder Trophy (low amateur) will take residence in Virginia Beach after Beck’s triumph in 2010.
Schuller admitted there was a competition within a competition in his group of three that also included local professional Jay Woodson (Powhatan) and Beck. Schuller matched Beck’s 6-under round, while Woodson had 3-under 69. Schuller picked up the $7,000 check and claimed the Lyn Luck Trophy as the low professional.
“It was quite a shock for me. I was playing my heart out to finish third.” said Schuller, the PGA teaching professional at Swader’s Sports Park in Prince George.
Schuller began the day at four under, seven strokes back of Jamerson, but closed the ground by playing bogey-free with six birdies. Schuller acknowledged that low professional honors “never ever dawned on me. The first time I thought about it was when I walked off No. 18 green.”
But it was Newsom’s week to shine brightest, collecting 21 birdies against three bogeys over the 72-hole championship. He joined Jamerson (1999, 2006 and 2009); amateur Keith Decker of Martinsville (1996, 2001 and 2002); professional Jerry Wood of Martinsville (1994 and 1997); PGA professional Woody FitzHigh of Great Falls (1986 and 1988); central Virginian Robert Wrenn, PGA (1989 and 1991) as post-merger multiple-time winners.
Newsom wore a 2011 U.S. Open Championship cap on the final day and gave a Rory McIlory-like runaway performance for the week. “I was going to give it 110 percent,” Newsom said. “I played well for three days. I told myself, ‘Look, you can’t shoot 65-67-67 and have it be a fluke. You can play. You can get it done.’ I didn’t shoot what I shot [Saturday], but I thought the conditions were harder. The wind was blowing and the course was set up a little bit firmer. I got it done. That’s all I care about out there on the golf course.”
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