Chase Bailey was admittedly tired following his quarterfinal win over Jason Spaar in the Roanoke Valley Match Play tournament at Blue Hills. For someone recently recovered from a bout of COVID-19, 38 holes of golf is an ordeal.
“I survived the Corona and I survived Jason Spaar. I don’t think anything can beat me, but tomorrow I’ll have to survive Brandon LaCroix,” Bailey said.
Bailey needed 23 holes to outlast Spaar in a match so close the two halved 18 of the 23 holes played.
“That was a heavyweight fight right there,” Bailey said. “He’s such a great player.
Spaar squared the match on No. 18 after eight straight halves. Both parred the first extra hole and both missed 8-footers on the second hole. Bailey had an advantage on the third when his approached rolled to 7 feet while Spaar’s rested 22 feet from the pin, but Spaar drained the birdie to apply pressure. Bailey jarred his birdie to continue the match.
Twice he had the match on his putter and each time his birdie effort lacked less than a ball rotation from dropping. On the 22nd hole, Spaar made a 4-footer to halve the hole, but an identical putt on the 23rd hole leaned into the left side of the hole but spun out, giving Bailey the win.
“I hate it that it ended like that, with a lip out,” Bailey said. “To beat someone of that caliber means a lot.”
Spaar was trailing by two after four and the pair halved four straight. Spaar cut Bailey’s lead to one on No. 9, then they halved the next eight holes. Spaar leveled the match on No. 18 to force extras.
Bailey won the day’s first match 4&3 over Bryce Tackett. He will meet Brandon LaCroix in the tournament semifinal Sunday at 7:34 a.m. LaCroix had an easier time in the quarterfinals, knocking off Jason Orlando 6&5.
The other semifinal features Ben Eanes facing two-time champion Matt Chandler.
Eanes and Bailey are the top two seeds and, like Bailey, Eanes is not part of the usual cast of players in the valley’s major tournaments. This is only the third he’s ever entered.
“I’m from Roanoke, but I’m pretty much a nobody,” Eanes said with a laugh. “I like to drink beer and play golf, and it’s clicking right now.”
Eanes bested 2018 champ John Hatcher Ferguson 4&3 in the quarterfinal, a result that surprised the 29-year old as much as anyone.
“I didn’t expect to be playing tomorrow. I had to call and cancel my tee time with my regular Sunday group,” Eanes said.
Eanes came from three holes back to defeat Richard Fishwick 1-up in the day’s first match.
Chandler topped Brad Chambers 5&4 to make the semifinals.
The senior division has three of its top four seeds alive — Paul Powell (1), Tim Moore (3) and David Tolley (4) — along with 15th seed Rodney Jones of Rocky Mount.
“I’m playing with house money. I’ve got nothing to lose,” Jones said after beating Chris Wright 1-up.
Jones knocked off second-seeded Rob Saferight 3&2 in the first round. Jones will play Moore, who needed 20 holes to best Bo Blankenship in the morning, then defeated Mark Funderburke 5&4 in the quarterfinal.
“There were 16 guys in it and 16 could have won it,” Jones said. “The final four — Paul, David, Tim — I know all of them and it’s just whose card gets drawn out of the deck. It’s anybody’s tournament. They’re all good golfers. Paul’s probably playing the best. David’s a legend. Me and Tim will be the JV match. They won’t see us coming.”
Powell earned a semifinal berth with a 4&3 quarterfinal win over Kevin Dill and a 3&2 win in the first round over Brian Austin. He will play Tolley, who beat Frank Moore 1-up in the opening round then topped Todd Hartman 2&1 in the quarterfinal.
The Super Seniors feature Chips Wooddy, a three-time winner in the division, playing Carl Leonard in one semifinal. The other semifinal has Jack Allara – twice a winner in the senior division – against Van McCarter.