Local golfers help grab first state title

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 20, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Golf is one event that can never be mastered. There’s just too many factors – weather, course conditions, ball types, club wear and tear, and human fatigue.

Fortunately, it’s also quite addictive. It’s easy to adapt a never-say-die-even-after-a-few-double-bogeys attitude. Just ask J.P. Leigh.

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Coming into the 33rd Annual Virginia State Golf Association Sectional Team Championship, Leigh had been playing in the tournament for a quarter-century. But he’d never led a team to victory… yet.

&uot;We’d finished second and third a bunch of times,&uot; he said. On March 13, Leigh, J.T. Belcher of Franklin, Chip Cutrone of Portsmouth, and Chris Tuttle, Roger Newsome, Bill Willard, Joe Morton and Bill McClanan III of Virginia Beach, all members of the Virginia Beach/Portsmouth team, headed to the Kingsmill Resort Golf Course in Williamsburg for the first round of the 13-team Championship.

Tuttle, the reigning Virginia Beach Amateur champion, and Belcher, a common sight on the Portsmouth Amateur tour, got things started for their team, overcoming cold and windy conditions to post a two-under 69. The pair finished third in the state in four-ball competition in 2002.

&uot;We played very well that day,&uot; said Belcher, an assistant at Franklin’s Cypress Cove Country Club, making his third appearance in the Champion-ships. He sank four birdies in the first round, capping off the team’s final score of 286, two strokes ahead of Roanoke (Leigh and McClanan racked up a 74).

Mother Nature still wasn’t a good sport for the tournament’s second day, making things cold and wet again at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club’s Gold Course.

Again, Tuttle and Belcher tore things up, scoring a one-under 70, with each player scoring a birdie. Cutrone and Newsome also finished with a 70, with Willard and Morton notching a 72 and Leigh and McClanan a 73.

&uot;I thought it was too close,&uot; Belcher said. &uot;I felt that if we’d done our part a little more, we wouldn’t have had a problem. We weren’t bad, we just couldn’t really get things going.&uot; His frustration seemed apparent only to himself; the team’s final score of 571 got them their first-ever Championship title (the Roanoke team also finished with a 571, but the tiebreaker was a match of back nine scorecards, on which the local squad came out ahead, 136-137.

&uot;J.T. and Chris were two of the main reasons we won, and Roger was really great too,&uot; Leigh said. &uot;I told them at the ceremony that it was nice to finally win one! It gives me something to look forward to next year.&uot;