Home, sweet home.
The big winners Saturday afternoon at Ballyhack Golf Club were a pair who call the challenging Scottish Links layout their home course.
Fielding Brewbaker pulled out to a comfortable cushion on the inward nine with consecutive birdies on holes 14, 15 and 16, then held on over the last two holes to win the Delta Dental State Open of Virginia by one stroke with a final round 4-under 68, and three round total of minus-12 204.
It was an emotional win for the former Salem High School golfer who nursed in a bogey 5 on the 18th green for the winning margin, then hugged his wife Erin and 11-week-old daughter Madison Rose before turning to the approving gallery while wiping away tears.
“Emotionally, this is #1,” Brewbaker noted during an interview with media members outside the Ballyhack clubhouse after a series of photos. “Everyone was here. It was my back yard, my home course. In front of my wife, my baby, family, in-laws and supporters. Emotionally, it’s huge.”
After a long two-putt for birdie at the par-5 15th, Brewbaker hit it stiff on the 16th for a short birdie putt that had the 31-year-old seemingly on cruise control.
But, things got dicey on the par-3 17th when Brewbaker played his tee shot safely to the top shelf of the two-level green with the pin teasing players to try for its location on the bottom shelf bordered by a deep trap. His first putt failed to clear the drop to the lower level, and when his second try with the flat stick rolled down the slope six feet past the cup, suddenly a four-putt double bogey was in the headlights. But, Brewbaker jarred the bogey to head to the final hole with a two-shot cushion.
“I guess it was a good 3-putt bogey,” Brewbaker noted of the pivotal moment before being pressed further of its significance by a pair of reporters. “OK, I admit it, it was a VERY good 3-putt bogey.”
Nine players were bunched within 5 strokes of the lead heading into the final round.
“There were a number of great players out here and I knew there would be some low scores posted today,” Brewbaker noted of holding off the challengers. “I made a conscience decision Friday night that I wasn’t going to look at the leaderboard today. I didn’t know it until I bogeyed #17, but my Dad said I had a two-shot lead.”
“If you lose your focus on this golf course for a second, you will pay,” Brewbaker added. “I know this course and know where everything goes on these greens. But, you can have a ridge here or subleties there. I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. Every hole at Ballyhack has a different challenge. I felt like I was mentally ready.”
It was Brewbaker’s first pro win since a mini-tour event in 2015. The State Open win was worth a nifty $7,500 to the winner.
“This is a huge confidence builder for me. I can now focus on what’s in front of me. It was back in 2009 that Ballyhack interviewed me and agreed to help me out if I put their name on my shirt and my bag. Today makes that very rewarding to me.
Roanoke’s Justin Young, who also plays out of Ballyhack, almost pulled off catching Brewbaker after shooting a final round 9-under 63 to finish with a three-round total of minus-11. Young took home the trophy for the low amateur in the event.
Rick Schuller of Chester finished third at 206, with Jeffrey Long of Ashburn and Steve Delmar of Rockville, Maryland, both playing in the final group with Brewbaker, joining Mark Lawrence in a 3-way tie for fourth place at 208.