Friends to duel for State Amateur title

Published 11:43 pm Friday, June 26, 2009

Of all the amateur male golfers in the commonwealth of Virginia, the two who will be playing for the state’s championship on Saturday at Cedar Point got prepared for the big day with a slumber party the night before.

On Friday at Cedar Point Country Club, Brinson Paolini and Lanto Griffin both moved through the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds of the State Amateur Championship in lopsided matches.

Paolini, the 18-year-old defending champion who is moving on from Cox High School to Duke University, defeated Fielding Brewbaker with five holes to spare in the morning’s quarterfinals, then won 5-and-4 against Garland Green in the semis.

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Lanto Griffin, a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth, defeated Pat Tallent 5-and-3 in the morning. In the afternoon, Griffin led by four holes at the turn and wound up with a 4-and-3 win over Ben Keefer.

Griffin was staying with another golfer in the event before that golfer lost on Thursday. Paolini, who’s been friends with Griffin for “about four or five years” offered Griffin free lodging over in Virginia Beach for the rest of the week.

“It will be a blast. Lanto’s one of my best golf buddies,” said Paolini about Saturday’s 36-hole match for the state title.

“There’s no doubt it’ll be competitive, but we’re good friends,” said Paolini, who said Griffin moved in Thursday evening and the two shared “scrambled eggs, toast and bacon” Friday morning before heading out to Cedar Point.

In the semifinal contest against Green, a rising senior at Virginia Tech and a Tazewell native, Paolini carded eight birdies in 14 holes.

Even with Paolini’s great play, Green went back and forth with Paolini for the first six holes, and the match was all square.

At the par-four seventh hole, Paolini drained a 35-foot putt from the back fringe for birdie and the hole.

On the par-four eighth, Paolini rolled in a 40-foot putt from the front fringe. The putt used the flagstick to stop and fall into the cup, and Paolini described it as “a little lucky,” but it gave him a two-hole lead.

At the 218-yard, par-three ninth, Paolini came up with what he called “the turning point” by sticking a four-iron to two feet from the cup.

“It never left the flag…I thought it was going to go in,” he said.

“It gave me momentum to keep going, that’s for sure.”

Paolini kept rolling, and rolling in putts, on the par-four 10th. He made a 14-foot birdie putt to go up by four holes.

Green got one hole back with a birdie on the par-three 12th, but that was as close as he got to Paolini.

“Garland played great. I was just able to make a few more putts,” said Paolini.

In the Griffin and Keefer match, Griffin opened the round with a birdie on the opening hole, an eagle on the par-five third hole, and a birdie three on four, the course’s No. 1-handicapped hole, to take a three-hole lead.

Griffin led by four after nine holes. Griffin and Keefer halved the final six holes with five pars and matching birdies on the par-five 14th.

In Thursday’s two rounds and in Friday’s quarterfinals, Keefer won all of his matches in sudden death, with all three matches going 20 holes.

Virginia State Golf Association State Amateur Championship

At Cedar Point Country Club, Suffolk

Quarterfinals (match play)

Lanto Griffin d. Pat Tallent, 5 and 3

Ben Keefer d. Buck Brittain, 20 holes

Brinson Paolini d. Fielding Brewbaker, 6 and 5

Garland Green d. Jake Mondy, 3 and 2

Semifinals

Brinson Paolini d. Garland Green, 5 and 4

Lanto Griffin d. Ben Keefer, 4 and 3

Final match – 36 holes – starts at 8 a.m. Saturday