Ryan Zylstra saved the best for last.
The assistant pro at The Federal Club near Richmond fired a sizzling 6-under-par 66 in Saturday’s final round at Ballyhack Golf Club to capture the Delta Dental State Open of Virginia with a convincing 3-shot margin over amateur runners-up Ji Soo Park and Michael Brennan.
With the cut after two rounds leaving 63 players teeing off in the early hours Saturday, the temperatures continued to rise into the mid-90s, while Zylstra kept going low. The challenging conditions on the Ballyhack Scottish-style links allowed only 11 players to close in the red figures, and Zylstra, playing in the third-to-last group, was comfortably in the clubhouse when Park and Brennan arrived at the par-4 18th tee with a Sisyphus-like task at hand.
Park, the leader after the first round after shooting 69, needed an impossible hole-in-one to force a playoff. Brennan, the 15-year-old from Leesburg who blistered Ballyhack with his 8-under 64 in Friday’s second round to take a 2-shot lead into Saturday’s final, also was in a very improbable position, needing eagle-2 to push Zylstra to extra holes. The outcome left Zylstra toting the Farmington Cup back to Glen Allen.
Zylstra was up to the pressure in the state’s biggest golf showcase, calmly recording 7 birdies on the day to go along with 10 pars and a single bogey.
Everything was up for grabs this year, with 4-time winner Jay Woodson and 2015 winner Lanto Griffin not in the field. Park’s 69 in round-1 set the tone that a surprise winner may be in the works. No bigger surprise than Brennan’s 64 in round-2 that included 4 birdies on the outward nine, 4 more on the inward nine and 10 pars. After 36 holes, Brennan had not recorded a single bogey. Among a group of competitors that were a who’s who list of noted college players, Brennan was showing on his resume that he was a rising sophomore–on his high school team at Tuscarora High School in Northern Virginia.
Brennan’s round on Friday was more remarkable considering the high temperatures, fast greens and swirling winds that bent the Ballyhack heather. He did finish before a weather interruption that resembled the conditions across the Atlantic at The British Open. A flash uprising in mid-afternoon had strong winds, blowing rain and rumbles of thunder bring play to a halt as much of the field headed to the clubhouse for a delay that lasted for nearly an hour. On Saturday, it was just the mid-90s and Zylstra’s attack of the Ballyhack layout that ruled.
Among results from local standouts, Justin Young closed with a final round 4-over to finish with a 3-round total of 217. Salem’s Fielding Brewbaker fired a third-round 75, good for a 219 total. Hidden Valley High Schools’s Ross Funderburke posted a 3-over 75 on Saturday to post a 3-day 227 total.
Virginia Tech product Mark Lawrence Jr. was the only player to post red numbers in all three rounds, posting three straight 2-under 70s to finish fourth.
The Delta Dental State Open of Virginia will make its home at Ballyhack through 2020.