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None of the players ended up breaking par Saturday.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Lift, clean and place? Enough said.
Certainly, somebody had to go low in Saturday’s first round of the 40th Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame men’s championship at waterlogged Blacksburg Country Club on Saturday, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong.
Despite being able to pick up the golf ball in the fairway, being able to clean the mud off it and place it back on the ground, none of the field of 96 players could break par on a head-shaking day in Ellett Valley.
Salem’s Aaron Eckstein, the 2006 champion, and 59-year-old senior Roger Young from the host club were the only players to match par-72 and share the first-round lead heading into today’s final round at Ole Monterey.
“I was thinking probably 4- or 5-under would be leading,’’ said Eckstein, who started on the back nine and turned in 3-under 33. “Going to the easier front nine I’m thinking let’s get it to 4- or 5-under. But I bogeyed three holes and came home even.
“At the end of the round, I was thinking I let one get away, and then I look at the board and see that 72 was tied for the lead. I couldn’t believe it!
“It’s fun to be up there. Let’s see what happens [today].”
Young, a two-time winner of the Southwest Virginia Amateur senior title at Draper Valley, pulled the biggest shocker. The affable Young birdied two of the hardest par-3s on the course on the front and got home at 72.
“I never would have figured this,’’ said Young, who has a shot today to become the oldest winner in HOF’s men’s history.
“This is a crazy game and you never know. I’m going to show up [today] and try to do it again. There will be a party if somehow I can pull it off.”
Young’s BCC teammates had a field day with their old man atop the board.
“From Richfield [a Salem retirement home] to leading the field at the Hall of Fame … what a story!” cracked BCC’s reigning club champion John “Beer Man” Swanson as he pounded down another ale.
Certainly, the two co-leaders have plenty of company. The top of the field is packed as tight as a Talladega draft with 14 players stacked within two shots of the lead.
Blue Hills’ Elijah Tackett would have been tied with the two leaders, but he signed an incorrect scorecard and was docked a penalty shot that left him a shot back. He is joined with 2001 champ Jack Allara, Hunting Hills’ Jeff Largen and Rodney “Hot Rod’’ Jones of Mariners Landing.
Ten more players, including ex-pros and favorites Matt Chandler and Justin Young, are in a massive logjam at 74 that includes two-time champ Scott Wise and 2005 winner Chris Clemens.
Chandler was one of many players who questioned the on-edge pin placements that made scoring difficult.
“I think they had the hardest pin placements they could put on every hole,” said Chandler, the reigning Roanoke Valley Match Play champion who is looking to win his first Hall of Fame title.
“Obviously, coming in you think you can shoot a number, especially with lift, clean and place. My problem was didn’t get my ball much in the fairway to get my hands on it. I just didn’t play well. I started poorly, was sucking wind pretty early. But I think there’s a good one [round] out at Ole Monterey.”
Young, the best player never to win a Roanoke Valley major, got slapped in the face on the first hole. The former Charleston Southern standout took a triple bogey-7 on the first hole after he hit the wrong ball on his second-shot approach from the right rough. When he reached the green to mark his ball, Young noticed the ball wasn’t his.
“I hit a wrong ball one time in college, when I was a freshman in 1996, and I swore I would never do it again. I got to the ball and it had some mud on it and I saw Pro-VI, and I just assumed it was mine. It was just another ball in the first cut of rough. I had a great shot in there to about 15 feet, right up the gut for birdie and walked away with triple.
“So I go back and hit the next shot in the front bunker and made bogey. Tack on the two-shot penalty, and I start with a triple. So you start depressed right off the bat. I was shook up, but I just keep grinding away and it turns out, I’m pleased.”
Wise, looking for his sixth local major title, played the back side in 1-under to make up for 3-over 39 on the front that ended with a double bogey on the par-4 ninth.
“It took me five shots to get down from 60 yards on the double,’’ the left-hander said. “My second shot plugged in the bunker under the lip. I tried to hit it out and proceeded to hit my ball further up under the lip. So I took an unplayable and got it up and down for double.
“The way we all played, we should be able to buy mulligans [today] based on how it was playing here,’’ Wise quipped.
The day’s biggest casualty was defending champion Korey Watts, who was 1 over through 10 holes before making double on 11 and then took triple on the next hole after he hit a ball out of bounds on an attempt to lay up.
“I didn’t even know there was an OB over there,’’ Watts said. “It was a tough day. The pins were not very nice.”
Another teenager, Nick Brediger, made a quadruple bogey-8 on the par-4 seventh hole when he jacked two balls out of bounds off the tee.
“I made par on the hole after that,’’ said Brediger, winner of last month’s Bedford Invitational. “I thought that 8 probably killed my chances. I thought I was going to be like six shots back.”
In the team competition, the two favorites — defending champion Hunting Hills and Hidden Valley — are in a dead heat with a 449 total. Roanoke Country Club is three shots back in third.
If two teams wind up in a tie following today’s round, the deciding factor will be the scores of each team’s No. 7 player.
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