When winner Jay Woodson walked into the post-tournament media room Saturday afternoon at Ballyhack Golf Club and was introduced to everyone, he centered right in on this Roanoke Star reporter.
“You’re The Roanoke Star? I’ve got a question for you,” Woodson asked with a degree of uncertainty. “Why is Roanoke called “The Star City”? Is it because of that big star on the mountain?”
After a brief tutorial of the origin of the Mill Mountain landmark, Woodson chuckled when he was told to take the trophy to the overlook to display on the star’s webcam. No word on whether he made it Saturday night, but no doubt he’ll have a chance to check it out next July when he returns to Ballyhack to look for his fourth straight State Open title.
Playing a solid round Saturday to complete a 69-69-70 three-day 208 total, Woodson held off playing partners Mikey Moyers (210) and Jim Estes (212) down the stretch to capture his third straight Open title, the first time it’s happened since Bobby Wadkins pulled off the trifecta over 30 years ago.
“You have to adjust when it’s a three-round event (rather than the former Four-round format),” Woodson noted. “The first two rounds I wanted to be patient. At the same time you put everything you have into all three rounds. It was nice to have a 3-shot lead going into the final hole.”
The final group had battled all day, especially after Estes birdied four of the first five holes to create a three-way tie with Woodson and Moyers, a final-day qualifier in The Greenbrier Classic earlier this month.
Woodson created separation in the final four holes on the Scottish Highlands style Ballyhack layout. First, he drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-5 15th that set his charge in motion.
“I think that was the only putt I made outside of 10 feet all week,” Woodson noted. It left him one shot ahead of Estes and two clear of Moyers with three to play.
Estes got a tough break on the difficult par-4 16th when he pulled his tee shot into a pot bunker that left him no option but to wedge it out safely into a landing area. He followed with a third shot over the fairway waste area to the green and two putts for a bogey-5.
Moyers had a 15-foot birdie putt lip out and Woodson parred.
“I’m not pointing fingers, but a photographer in front of the tee box was a distraction,” Estes calmly noted of his misplaced shot that found sand.
Woodson sent a 7-foot birdie into the jar at the short par-3 17th, while Estes again bogeyed and Moyers made par. Three-shot lead with one to play on both playing partners. Check and checkmate.
“I got to the 18th tee and just told myself ‘hit the ball and focus on the target’,” Woodson said. “I didn’t feel comfortable all day.”
Woodson bogeyed the 18th, while Moyers parred and Estes finished his round with a double bogey.
Other area players of note included pro Fielding Brewbaker who tied for sixth at 215. Hanging Rock pro Chip Sullivan tied for 12th at 218, plagued by 10 three-putts over the 54-hole trek.
Cave Spring and University of Richmond grad Jack Wilkes closed with a 73 and also tied for 12th at 218. Wilkes plans to turn pro in upcoming months.
Roanoke amateur Justin Young, who was runner-up in last weekend’s Roanoke Valley Match Play Championship, tied for 16th at 219.
The State Open returns to Ballyhack in 2015, where the competitors Saturday were heaping praise on the prestigious club including Director of Operations Jonathan Ireland, head pro Aaron Dooley, their staff and the course’s condition.
“This is a an awesome course and club,” one out-of-town competitor commented Saturday. “The course ate me alive, but it’s awesome.”
– Bill Turner