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Previewing the 2021 Richmond Golf Association’s Amateur championship
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Previewing the 2021 Richmond Golf Association’s Amateur championship

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After an unusual 2020 Richmond Golf Association Amateur Championship with numerous COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s tournament will feature golf “as it was in 2019,” RGA board member Bert Wilson said.

The 2021 tournament will be held at The Federal Club for the first time since 2008 — the annual event rotates among clubs in the Richmond area. This year’s field features numerous past champions, including Larry Loving Jr. (1999), Tom Vlahakis (2000), Brock Kelley (2006), Clark Taylor (2008) Ben Keefer (2010, 2014), Scott Weisenweaver (2015) and most recently, John Rosenstock (2019, 2020).

Last year’s field was “outstanding” and featured more “national-caliber players” than usual, Wilson said, because the tournament was one of the first in Virginia during the pandemic. Many players who entered hadn’t played golf in three or four months.

“This year, there’s been a normal tournament schedule, so folks have had an opportunity to play golf all year long,” Wilson said.

Here’s what you need to know before the 84-player RGA Amateur Championship begins on Thursday:

Players to watch

John Rosenstock: The defending champion from the past two tournaments, Rosenstock topped Peter Gasperini with a birdie on the 19th hole to secure back-to-back titles last June. It was his third consecutive win of the tournament in extra holes, and he said it was “hands down, the best match I’ve been part of.”

He’ll look to become the first player to win three consecutive RGA Amateur titles since David Partridge (1994, 1995, 1996).

Tom Vlahakis: Vlahakis lost in the semifinals of last year’s tournament on the 19th hole to Rosenstock, the eventual winner. The Ashland native is the 2000 RGA Amateur winner and a two-time Mid-Amateur winner (2005, 2018). He’s a member of The Federal Club.

Ryan Taylor: Taylor, also a Federal Club member, enters the 2021 tournament on his home course after winning the first flight of the 2020 event. Taylor finished 38th in qualifying last year, narrowly missing the cutoff for the championship flight.

Taylor won the Virginia State Golf Association’s second multiformat team championship in August 2020, too. Wilson called him “one of the favorites” for this weekend’s contest.

Ben Keefer: Like Vlahakis, Keefer’s a two-time Mid-Amateur winner (2009, 2019). The Hermitage Country Club member finished 70th of 80 players in the qualifying round of last year’s RGA Amateur, but bounced back by winning the third flight.

Ryan Bishop: Despite finishing 29th in qualifying and then proceeding to lose in the first round of the championship flight in 2020, Bishop was part of the 2019 championship match with Rosenstock.

Tournament format

The tournament begins Thursday with a qualifying round that will feature the complete field. That stroke-play round will determine which 32 players advance to the championship flight, and which others will be placed into the remaining three flights.

From there, match play will determine the winner of each head-to-head matchup for the second through fifth rounds. The championship match (Round 6) will take place on Sunday morning.

This year’s course

The Federal Club has been the site of The Signature in addition to the RGA Amateur, both of which draw some of the best amateur players in the state.

“It’s a difficult, challenging golf course,” Wilson said. “It’ll have pretty fast greens and lots of bunkers.”

Rosenstock, a member of Stonehenge Country Club in past years, won the 2019 tournament at Lakeside Country Club and the 2020 tournament at Meadowbrook Country Club.

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