As the shots kept falling, Sam Stilwell started laughing. One hole after another, the Dominion junior just kept on smiling as he shot a career-best 5-under-par 66 to come from five shots behind and win the Virginia AA championship on Tuesday at Shenandoah Valley Golf Club in Front Royal. He finished with a two-day total of 142.
“Today was by far the best I’ve played,” said Stilwell, who previously had never shot better than 71 in a tournament. “Good timing, I guess.”
Meantime, in the Virginia AAA tournament at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Matt DiSalvo shot 1-under 70 and Northern Region champion Chris Brugge shot 72 to lead Langley to the team title.
DiSalvo’s two-day total of 144 was good for fourth place as the Saxons shot 593 to best second-place Chantilly by nine strokes. Tim Harwick shot 75-72 — 147 and Juhee Bae shot 78-74 — 152 to lead the Chargers.
Matt Lawrence of Mills Godwin edged Griffin Clark of Thomas Dale in a playoff to win the individual AAA title. Both players had shot 141, while Deep Run’s Chris O’Neill was third at 143. Chantilly’s Harwick and Battlefield’s P.J. Leonard were among a four-way tie for sixth at 147.
In Front Royal, Stilwell sandwiched birdies on the second and fourth holes around a bogey on the third. But the fun started on the sixth hole, when he made a 30-foot birdie putt, starting a run of four consecutive birdies. He put a wedge within six inches on the seventh, hit a 5-iron to eight feet on the par-3 eighth and made a 15-foot putt from the fringe on the ninth.
After shooting 76 in Monday’s first round, Stilwell burst into contention with a 5-under 30 on Tuesday’s front nine.
How well was Stilwell going? On the 10th, he hit his tee shot so far left that he had a clear shot at the green and was disappointed to miss a 12-foot birdie putt. On No. 14, he left a wedge shot 30 feet from the hole, then made the putt, going to 7 under on the round.
Bogeys at No. 15 and 18 prevented him from scoring even lower, but it was enough to edge first-round co-leader Nick Brediger of Cave Spring by one stroke.
“My goal was to shoot something around 71 and if I medaled, great,” Stilwell said. “Then the birdies started rolling. I wasn’t going into the day thinking I was going to win.”