Jeff Long's toughest opponent yesterday was the clock. Once the Westfield senior made it through traffic to arrive at Herndon Centennial Municipal Golf Course five minutes before his tee time, he was fine. Despite not having time to warm up, Long continued his strong start to the season with a 3-under-par 68 to win the individual title in the two-day, 11-team Herndon Invitational.
It was the second tournament win of the season for Long, who thought his 70 in Monday's first round would put him in yesterday's final group. However, tournament organizers instead had the leaders tee off early, and Long said he learned of his starting time around 7:15 yesterday morning, after Westfield Coach Robert Reed called his house.
His car was being repaired, so Long got in his parents' sport utility vehicle, picked up teammate Zach Spees -- the two live in the same Centreville neighborhood -- then hustled to the course.
"He was a panic," said Spees, who finished second, five shots behind Long. "We were scared we were not going to make our time."
The two arrived just in time to avoid being penalized -- two strokes for tardiness of less than five minutes, disqualification thereafter. Their rush to the course meant Long did not have his customary hour to warm up, but it hardly mattered. He started with two pars, then birdied the par-5 third hole when he hit a sand wedge to two inches on his third shot.
Long birdied all three par 5s yesterday and finished 5 under on those holes for the tournament en route to winning it for the second consecutive year. His round yesterday included a birdie on the 482-yard 15th hole after he thought his second shot was lost over some trees near the green. He hit a provisional shot, but when he approached the green, the ball was sitting up in the grass and was in good position.
"The par 5s are where you can pick up your shots," said the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Long, who hits his driver about 290 yards and jokingly called himself the team's longest hitter, pound for pound. "I usually expect to hit [the green] in two or have a nice sand wedge, and I feel good with my wedges."
Westfield, the team several Northern Virginia coaches expect to end Centreville's three-year reign as Virginia AAA Northern Region champions, won the team title with a score of 583, 47 shots better than second-place Jefferson. In addition to Long and Spees, Michael Spear shot 148 and Tom Vigotsky 154.