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Hidden Valley grad Funderburke relishes State Am win

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Until two weeks ago, Ross Funderburke had never won a big golf tournament.

He had never won a Virginia State Golf Association tournament.

When he played for Hidden Valley High School, he twice finished second in the VHSL Class 3 state tournament.

He is now on the Furman men’s golf team, but the rising senior has yet to win a college tournament.

Funderburke was a big winner two weeks ago, though. He captured the 109th VSGA State Amateur Championship at the Cedar Point Club in Suffolk.

“It meant a lot,” Funderburke, 21, said in a recent interview at Hidden Valley Country Club. “I haven’t won a tournament since I was 13 — and that was so nonimportant. This was pretty much my first one.

“I’ve always made the joke that I can’t win a golf tournament. I’ve gotten second countless times. I can’t make that joke anymore.”

Hold on a second. Funderburke did win two area high school tournaments of note as a Hidden Valley senior in the fall of 2018. He won the Bob McLelland Metro Invitational (after, yes, finishing second the previous two years) and the Heritage Invitational.

“I won both of those my senior year, but in terms of true competition, top-level guys, this [State Amateur] was definitely my first win,” he said.

He will pursue another title this weekend, when he plays in the State Open of Virginia at Independence Golf Club in Midlothian.

That tournament, which includes both amateurs and pros, will be held Friday through Sunday. Funderburke, who was 10th in that event last year, will try to become only the fifth golfer to win both the State Amateur and the State Open in the same year.

Already in the exclusive club: Richmond’s Vinny Giles, Tom McKnight, Steve Smith and Mark Lawrence Jr., the former Mills Godwin and Virginia Tech standout who won both in 2020.

The State Amateur was Funderburke’s first tournament since the NCAA regional with Furman.

After advancing in stroke-play qualifying, Funderburke went 5-0 in the match-play portion of the tournament. He became the first golfer from the Roanoke area to win the event since David Tolley in 1983.

“I had a losing record in match play until this year and I won five in a row,” said Funderburke, who made the State Am quarterfinals two years ago. “I kind of figured it out a little bit — not changing my game plan from stroke play.

“Not really backing down when I had a lead was a good thing to learn.”

Funderburke had tweaked his swing after receiving a lesson a few weeks earlier from his swing coach in South Carolina.

“I was able to start aiming at pins and hitting it where I wanted to,” he said.

Funderburke beat former Virginia Tech golfer Ian Hildebrand 1 up in the round of 32 and defeated ex-Virginia golfer Jack Montague 5 and 4 in the round of 16. He beat Loyola of Maryland golfer Carlo Pizzano 2 and 1 in the quarterfinals.

Funderburke defeated 2021 State Open of Virginia champ and former Wake Forest golfer Evan Beck 2 and 1 in the semifinals.

He beat Fredericksburg teen Grayson Wood 7 and 6 in the final. The final was scheduled for 36 holes, but Funderburke clinched the title with six holes to go.

“The Am, I’d like to think, is the biggest tournament in Virginia,” Funderburke said. “You just never know what’s going to happen once you get to match play. You hear a lot [of], ‘Anybody can win.’ So I’m just glad I could be that somebody.”

Funderburke’s father was not able to attend the tournament because of work. But Funderburke’s mother, Carol, was on hand — just as she had been for all his high school and junior tournaments, and just as she has been for most of his college tournaments as well.

After winning the title, Funderburke’s first thoughts were of his parents — and of his late brother.

Funderburke’s half brother, Rhett (from Rick Funderburke’s previous marriage), died if pancreatic cancer on April 1 at the age of 44.

“He’s in a better spot,” Funderburke said.

“I wish he could have been there [at the State Am]. That win, it was for him in a way.”

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