Suffolk golfers fight course, conditions at Va. Junior

Published 9:19 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PETERSBURG – Suffolk teens Preston Leigh and Ben Hunter improved from day one to day two of the Virginia State Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship at the Country Club of Petersburg on Tuesday.

Leigh, a rising senior at Greenbrier Christian Academy who was the runner-up in the Tidewater Conference Tournament this past spring and played in the State Amateur at Suffolk’s Cedar Point Country Club in June, shot 76 on Monday and got off to a great start on Tuesday morning.

“I hit the ball well yesterday, but I couldn’t make any putts. Today, I hit the ball well again on the back side (Leigh’s first nine of the day) and was three-under on the back side.”

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Leigh was still three-under-par on his round through 12 holes before a triple bogey on the par-four 4th hole. Leigh’s approach to the green from the left-side rough on the long par four went right of the green and nearly into a hazard. It took Leigh three chips and two putts to finish the hole from there. Two more bogeys through the final few holes left Leigh with a two-over par 74.

“They were mental errors,” said Leigh of the rough holes coming down the stretch. “So that should never happen.”

“The front side is pretty long, but the back side you can go low on, but if you hit solid shots on the front, you should be good,” said Leigh.

The usual southern Virginia humidity plus a long, tough golf course made for an unforgiving mix on most of the field. Richmond’s Adam Ball and Stanardsville’s Mikey Moyers each shot their second straight under-par rounds and lead the tournament at 137 (-7).

Hunter knocked six strokes off his opening round of 79 to be 15 shots behind the leaders going into Wednesday’s final round. John David Sanderson, a member of Cedar Point Country Club, shot 79 and 81 in his first two rounds.

Hunter, a Lakeland graduate who will be attending Jackson State University with a golf scholarship this coming fall, is by no stretch a short-hitter on the golf course, yet the Country Club of Petersburg course is a major challenge.

“It’s very long. I think it’s measured at about 7,000 yards. For me it’s difficult to score when I’m hitting three, four or five irons into the greens,” said Hunter.

Hunter’s one-over-par 73 included an excellent sand save on No. 17 (Hunter’s eighth hole of the round). Hunter had a bunker shot with very little green to work with, then made a 15-foot par putt. Hunter rolled in a 30-foot birdie putt on No. 18. Over the front nine, Hunter’s second nine, makeable birdie putts were tough to come by.

Every golfer in the field has to deal with it, but the heat and humidity certainly make the final holes of a five-hour-long round taxing.

“It just wears you out. You’ve got to drink a lot of water and just try to stay in the shade as much as possible, but it takes a toll,” said Leigh.

“It gets a little tough at the end, but you’ve got to find a way to stick it out and hit the shots you need to hit.”

“At the end, you’re trying not to fade,” said Hunter.

“I think I held up pretty strong stamina-wise. I just take my Five-Hour Energy before the round,” said Hunter.

The VSGA Junior Amateur Championship is open to males age 18-and-under. Out of 90 golfers in the field, eight were under par through Tuesday’s play. Wednesday’s tee times for the final round run from 8 a.m. to just after 10 a.m.