Richmond Golf Association president Matt Paciocco got phone calls from players in Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina and Northern Virginia inquiring about participating in the RGA Amateur championship.
“I had to tell them this is a local event,” he said. “I don’t know how they heard about us, but people are itching to get out.”
The 96th championship, which tees off with qualifying Thursday at Meadowbrook Country Club, isn’t the only game going on in town, but it’s among the first wave of local competitions since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports in mid-March.
Paciocco said the RGA, Meadowbrook pro Dean Evans and the club have been developing COVID-19 protocols for about the past six weeks in anticipation they’d be able to play the four-day event this week, on the original dates. Gov. Ralph Northam gave the green light last week when he announced Phase II guidelines for the state that included starting outdoor recreational sports with social-distancing guidelines.
“You have no idea how good the timing was,” Paciocco said, noting the RGA already had postponed a couple of events.
“[With Evans and the club] we … just really chatted through what we need to do to make sure social distancing guidelines are met, and then just over and above to make sure everyone is safe as well.”
Among the COVID-19 guidelines for the four-day event:
- Players or guardians must sign a waiver to participate.
- The field is limited 80 players to adhere to social-distancing guidelines. Each player will have his own cart.
- No caddies.
Flagsticks are supposed to be kept in the hole (removing it will incur warnings and then penalties)
- Spots at the driving range are being spaced eight paces apart, and holes on practice greens are being spaced to limit groups practicing at the same hole.
Players are being asked to refrain from handshakes and handling the
- equipment of other golfers.
- No drinking water will be on the course. Players are being encouraged to bring their own coolers with food and drink.
Spectators are allowed, but they must abide by social-distancing guidelines
- No awards ceremony.
Stroke-play qualifying on Thursday will determine the 31 players who will join defending champ John Rosenstock (Stonehenge Country Club) in the championship flight. Match play begins Friday, with the championship scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
The field includes several past winners: two-time champ Ben Keefer (2010, 2014), Rusty Breeden (2016), Scott Reisenweaver (2015), Brock Kelley (2006) and Tom Vlahakis (2000).
“I look forward to defending my title,” Rosenstock said in a release. “I will always be grateful to have that one in 2019. I have not played Meadowbrook in many years, but I remember it well and look forward to getting back out there. The layout fits my strengths, just like Jefferson Lakeside did last year. It is not a bomber’s course. It is tight, tree-lined, and relatively short with small greens. Patience and picking your spots to be aggressive are keys to a good round.”
Thursday at Meadowbrook CC
8 a.m.: Alex Sleeker, Joey Jordan; 8:09: David Jordan, Jeff Spears; 8:18: Jeff Fiebelkorn, Adam Houck; 8:27: David Kopsick, Chris Neville; 8:36: Gary Cicatiello, Jimmy Angel; 8:45: Ryan Taylor, Zach Wehrman; 8:54: Ray Dingledine, Trevor Elliott
9:03: Jeff Nygaard, Quint Dingledine; 9:12: Rusty Breeden, Ernie Chamberlain; 9:21: Peyton Lawson, Brock Kelley; 9:30: Michael Joyce, Brett Chambers; 9:39: Tom Vlahakis, Paras Pandya; 9:48: Patrick Johnson, Griffin Winn; 9:57: Mark Lawrence Jr., Peter Gasperini
10:06: Ryan Bishop, John Reynolds; 10:15: Andrew Wilkinson, Cole Pollard Jr.; 10:24: Steve Serrao, Jordan Utley; 10:33: Matt Paciocco, Jay Zapko; 10:42: Ben Keefer, Matt Dira; 10:51: Matthew Cannon, Patrick Galleher
11: Scott Reisenweaver, Jim Woodson; 11:09: Nicholas Taliaferro, Patrick Hineline, Clifford Foster.
12:03 p.m.: Greg Gerczak, Jack Hoyle; 12:12: Mike Dreschler, Brint Harbison; 12:21: Rob Witherspoon, Andrew Norris; 12:30: Eric Blythe; Joseph Weinstein; 12:39: Garrett Kuhla, Ryan Rettberg; 12:48: Travis Bowers, Sean Sweeney; 12:57: John D’Aiutolo, Roby Blair
1:06: Nick Hogan, Trent Sveum; 1:15: Phillip Collier, Duncan Andres; 1:24: George Montague, Craig Gerow; 1:33: Marco Poccia, Adam Hade; 1:42: John Berry, Vijay Powell; 1:51: Phil Harrison, Julian Bowers
2: Ian Quindoza, Sean Dougherty; 2:09: Donnie Frick, Taylor Jefferson; 2:18: Robby McKetta, Brayden Coleman; 2:27: Richard Wintsch, Chris Corrada