Smooth, steady wins golf title
Thanks to firing a 4-under-par 32 on Nansemond River Golf Club’s front nine Friday afternoon, Ridgeway’s Dylan Jensen went on to a 4 and 3 victory over Roanoke’s Alex Taylor in the championship match of the 20th Annual Virginia State Golf Association Junior Match Play Championship.
Jensen played remarkably consistent golf all week long at Nansemond River, but he seemed calmer and more relaxed than ever during the final match.
Jensen won two of the first three holes against Taylor, allowing him to play a fairly pressure-free round considering the stakes.
“Once I got a good lead, I said to my caddie, ‘I just want to hit each green and make pars. I’ve got to make him come to me and not give him any openings.’ From there, it was kind of an easy round out there,” Jensen said.
“This is definitely the highlight of my career,” Jensen said.
Both finalists were nearly out of the tournament on Wednesday afternoon as Jensen and Taylor were the two survivors out of a five-player playoff for the 16-player cut after two rounds of stroke play.
On Friday morning, Jensen and Taylor moved through tight semifinal matches.
Jensen defeated Virginia Beach’s Alex Lloyd 3 and 1. Jensen was down by two holes before rolling off wins on Nos. 7-9. Jensen birdied the long par-three seventh and won No. 8 with a par.
“No. 9 was the biggest moment, to go 1-up, that was probably the highlight of the day,” Jensen said.
Jensen’s approach to the green on the par five left him with a 20-foot birdie try. He made it while Lloyd just missed his own birdie putt.
Jensen moved to 2-up with a birdie on the par-five No. 13 and Lloyd didn’t take another hole the rest of the way.
Taylor defeated Virginia Beach’s Bryce Cope in 20 holes. Taylor led 2-up through eight holes, but that was the largest lead he had.
After Taylor won No. 14 with a double bogey six to gain a 1-up lead, Cope won No. 15 with a birdie three. The match remained square through the last three holes of regulation.
Taylor and Cope made pars on No. 1 before Taylor won the match by making a two on the par-three No. 2.
In the final match, Jensen led the whole way after making a long putt for birdie on the first hole. A chip to a few inches from the cup gave Jensen a birdie on the par-five third hole and a 2-up lead.
Taylor birdied No. 4 to get back within a hole. Despite shooting 1-under-par on the front nine, Taylor was down by three holes at the turn.
One turning point was on the sixth green. Jensen, at least by his standard for the rest of the day, hit a mediocre approach shot, leaving a 30-foot putt from the fringe. Jensen made the putt for birdie and Taylor missed a shorter birdie putt. A slight opening for Taylor became a 3-up Jensen lead.
It looked as though Taylor might get a hole back on No. 11, Nansemond River’s longest par three. After Taylor was in with a par, Jensen made a 7-foot putt for par.
“It was a big putt. That way I could keep the tee and keep control of the match,” Jensen said.
On No. 12, Jensen hit a short iron to 12 feet from the hole and won the hole to go 4-up. Down the stretch, Jensen hit each green and calmly two-putted each one, leaving little chance for Taylor to close in. Jensen was 5-under-par in the 15 holes of the final.
Jensen and Taylor played six rounds in four days around the long layout at Nansemond River.
Jensen had the help of a caddie, Clayton Young, a friend who was with Jensen through all four days.
The state championship gives Jensen, who’s headed to Longwood and to play golf for the Lancers this coming fall, an exemption into the VSGA State Amateur Championship, starting Tuesday in Alexandria.
“I’m kind of tired, not really from the heat, it’s just been a lot of golf,” Jensen said, “I’ll take a day off tomorrow and stay in the A.C.”