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Cedar Point ready for Va. Amateur Championship

Cedar Point Country Club in north Suffolk will host the premier amateur golf tournament in the state in a couple weeks and the path to getting the prestigious event has been a few years in the making. From June 23-27, Cedar Point is welcoming the 96th annual Virginia State Golf Association (VSGA) Amateur Championship.

Going back three years, as a prerequisite to having the VSGA give the Amateur Championship to Cedar Point, the club has hosted, and been an excellent host for, a number of VSGA events.

“The best players in the state have played here and thought highly of it,” said T.J. Young, Cedar Point’s director of golf. After each VSGA tournament, players gave feedback about the course. Successful tournaments and positive feedback led the VSGA to award its top amateur tournament of the year to, as Young describes his course, “a hidden gem.”

So good was the majority of the reviews from golfers during past events, the VSGA made no demands or requests that Cedar Point change or improve anything about its course in preparation for the VSGA Amateur Championship. That goes for the difficulty and distance of the course, as well as the condition of the course.

“A year ago, the VSGA said they could come play here with the course as is and not change a thing,” said Young, “we haven’t changed anything. It’ll be exactly the same course we have for the members.” For that, Young commended the constant work of course superintendent Chris Petrelli.

“That speaks for how well-conditioned the course is year around, that we’ve really had no extra steps, it’s been only regular maintenance, to have the course ready for the State Amateur,” said Young.

“This is the premier event for amateur golf in Virginia. We are honored to be chosen to hold it here,” said Young.

The tournament is scheduled to play out over five days. On Tuesday and Wednesday, the field of 120 will play stroke play to get down to 32 golfers. Four match-play rounds will be played through Thursday and Friday. The 36-hole, match-play championship will tee off Saturday at 8 a.m.

Out of more than 500 golfers who tried qualifying for the tournament, 16-year-old John David Sanderson of Suffolk is one of the youngest to make the field. Sanderson qualified at Kingsmill in Williamsburg on Monday said Young.

Occasionally, especially at private clubs, when courses host lengthy tournaments, there can be upset members who have to go without their golf course during the event. The reaction at Cedar Point has been the exact opposite said Young.

“We have over 40 volunteers lined up each day offering their free time,” said Young. Volunteers will be helping with parking, registration and as spotters on the course.

Members, said Young, are enthusiastic about being out around the course as spectators as well, which is welcome news to the VSGA.

“According to their tournament director,” said Young, “at Kingsmill last year, they had about 50-75 people watching the semifinals and final. I fully expect more than that with our members and how supportive they’ve been.”

The club is welcoming the tournament on the first day of the event, as well as the final day.

On Tuesday afternoon, after round one of the tournament, members and tournament players will pair up for a short tournament on the club’s nine-hole, par three course; then there will be a cookout.

“We want to show we value the players coming here,” said Young. “It’s similar to what Augusta (The Masters) does on Wednesday night.”

On Saturday evening, in conjunction with the club’s 45th anniversary, there will be a cocktail party, live music and a show by Dennis Walters. Even for those who aren’t into golf, or don’t care about being at the tournament for most of the week, Walters has an inspiring story to share.

Walters was a promising golfer before being in an accident and becoming paralyzed in 1974. For about 25 years now, and with the help of a golf cart equipped with a swivel seat which allows Walters to take a natural golf swing, Walters has toured the country with his combination of trick-shot show and motivational story.

“He gets into conversations with the crowd which are about more than golf,” said Young. “It’s very inspiring and a life lesson, too.”

There will be free admission for spectators to the State Amateur Championship, with play starting about 8 a.m. each day.