Charlie Musto, of Sterling, and Matthew Brittain, of Ashburn, recorded top five finishes among a stellar field at the 2014 Virginia State Golf Association Junior Stroke Play Championship. The 54-hole tournament concluded July 31 in Williamsburg.
-Here is the full story courtesy of Arthur Utley, a longtime, award-winning reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The first time Tom Crow attempted to qualify for the Virginia State Golf Association Junior Stroke Play Championship, just last year, he didn’t make the field.
A year later, Crow, a 16-year-old from Virginia Beach, not only qualified, he’s the champion.
Crow, a student at Cape Henry Collegiate School, shot a 2-under-par 70 in Thursday’s final round at Williamsburg Club, for a 54-hole total of 4-under 212.
He finished one stroke clear of Nathan Chuwait, 16, of Herndon and Charlie Musto, 16, of Sterling. Chuwait, who shot 66 in the second round and shared the 36-hole lead with Matthew Brittain, 17, of Ashburn, slipped to 75 in the finale. Musto fired the best round of the day, 68, to move up the leaderboard.
Brittain, who also shot 66 in the second round, returned 77 Thursday and shared fourth place at 1-under 215 with Andrew Spiegler, 16, of Abingdon, who concluded with 73.
They were the only players to finish in red numbers on the redesigned and rebranded club (formerly Williamsburg Country Club) that played 6,744 yards for the juniors.
The difference for Crow?
“I’ve grown up a lot since last year. I play a lot more golf tournaments. I’ve gotten a lot more coaching. My swing is in better shape,” Crow said. “My mental game is a little bit better. I mean I’m still a kid, and I like to go for everything as all kids do. I probably get a little heated once in a while, but I like to think I’m pretty level headed at all times whereas a year ago I used to get a little hot, and I’ve worked really, really hard on that.”
Crow was the first-round leader by five strokes after opening with 66 on Tuesday. He trailed Chuwait and Brittain by four strokes after a second round 76.
“Actually I wasn’t as disappointed as some might think because if someone had told me I’d be two under (par) going into the final round of the stroke play before I even played, I would have said I’d be stoked to do that. That’s the way I looked at it,” Crow said. “I was a little disappointed that I didn’t play better the second day, but I just looked at it in the grand scheme of things that I’m still in a good spot.”
Crow, playing in the penultimate group, shot 3-under 33 on the front nine Thursday with birdies on the second and fourth holes and an eagle on the par-5 seventh against a bogey on the ninth. He teed off No. 10 standing at five under for the championship and three shots back of Chuwait, who returned 1-under 35 to stand at seven under.
Crow reached six under with a birdie at the par-4 14th and saved par at the 15th hole with a 10-foot putt.
Meanwhile, Chuwait, playing in the final pairing with Brittain and defending champion Logan Yates, 16, of Ruckersville, turned a wayward tee shot on the par-4 13th into a triple bogey to fall out of the lead.
“I wish I had just punched it out sideways and taken a bogey,” Chuwait said of the triple.
Brittain fell back with a front-nine 38 and two three-putts early in the back nine. Yates dropped out of the picture courtesy of a triple bogey on the ninth hole.
Crow gave back two strokes with bogeys at the par-5 16th and par-3 17th with a poor third shot at No. 16 and a miss-club one hole later.
His tee shot at the final hole strayed right into heavy rough. From there he hacked his second shot into the front left bunker, blasted to 10 feet then sank the par-saving putt.
“I actually had a similar putt on the first day for par, but it was on the other side of the hole,” Crow said.
Chuwait, who was two under as he played the 16th, knew he needed a couple of birdies coming in to force a playoff. A 4-foot birdie try lipped out on No. 16, but he rolled home a 16-footer for birdie at the ensuing hole. A pitching wedge second shot at the last wound up 30 feet short of the hole and he made par.
“I wish I could have played a little bit better on the back,” Chuwait said. “I didn’t come in here expecting to shoot another round like [the 66]. I would have liked to, but I just wanted to go out there, play my game, stick to my game plan, then unfortunately I had that hole on the back nine.”
Musto started the day at one over par and seven strokes behind. He logged four birdies on the front nine and shot 33. Two early birdies on the back got him to five under for the day.
After posting his score, he had lunch and waited.
“I didn’t think I was going to be one shot off. I thought it would be three or four,” Musto said.
Crow mentioned more coaching as one of the ways he’s grown in the past year. He began working with Butch Harmon last Christmas.
“When I see him, I either go to Vegas or The Floridian, which are his two facilities in the U.S.,” said Crow, whose grandfather and Harmon are friends. “I’ll call him tonight to let him know.”
Tom Crow (Virginia Beach), 66-76-70—212
Charlie Musto (Sterling), 73-72-68—213
Nathan Chuwait (Herndon), 72-66-75—213
Andrew Spiegler (Abingdon), 73-69-73—215
Matthew Brittain (Ashburn), 72-66-77—215
Mark Lawrence Jr. (Richmond), 72-72-74—218
Logan Yates (Ruckersville), 71-70-77—218
Connor Messick (Oak Hill), 73-73-72—218
Bryce Johnson (Oakton), 74-73-71—218
Ty Olinger (Blacksburg), 74-74-71—219
Kurt Funkhouser (Potomac Falls), 74-71-75—220
Connor Burgess (Lynchburg), 72-72-77—221
Brandon Yoon (Brambleton), 74-78-70—222
David Rabil (Fairfax Station), 74-74-74—222
Michael Mead (Spotsylvania), 75-78-69—222
Vishal Giri (Chantilly), 75-76-71—222
Fitz Woodrow (Charlottesville), 74-74-75—223
Alston Newsom (Chesapeake), 74-77-72—223
Colton Grow (Henrico), 74-70-79—223
Adam Szwed (Woodbridge), 75-73-76—224
Austin Fockler (Richmond), 73-75-77—225
Joey Jordan (Glen Allen), 74-75-76—225
Jake Miles (Spotsylvania), 74-75-77—226
Connor Rinoski (Yorktown), 73-74-79—226
Ian Hildebrand (Purcellville), 75-78-73—226
Christopher Angelelli (Virginia Beach), 77-76-73—226
Larkin Gross (Center Cross), 76-75-75—226
Adam Hade (Glen Allen), 76-75-75—226
Sam Comer (Roanoke), 76-78-72—226
Jamie Agnew (Fairfax), 78-76-73—227
Trey Wren (Suffolk), 71-77-80—228
Parker See (Verona), 80-72-77—229
Josiah Singleton (Brookneal), 74-78-78—230
Keith Cooper (Suffolk), 81-73-76—230
Teddy Hoffmann (Virginia Beach), 76-77-77—230
Ryan Muthiora (Zion Crossroads), 79-74-77—230
Will Snyder (Clifton), 78-76-77—231
Brandon Weaver (Purcellville), 79-72-80—231
Ryan O’Sullivan (Leesburg), 78-74-80—232
Boyd Peete (Richmond), 76-77-79—232
Zeke Shen (Forest), 77-75-80—232
Will Coggins (Chesapeake), 79-75-79—233
York Beights (Afton), 77-77-81—235
Jordan Plogger (Staunton), 73-81-87—241
Ben Ramsey (Bluefield), 77-77-91—245