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Decker wins Chatmoss Invitational
Martinsville native records 18th win at event
Keith Decker hits from the 18th fairway during Sunday's final round at the Chatmoss Invitational. Decker shot 7-under over two rounds for his 18th career win in the event. (Bulletin photo by Paul Montana)
Jack Nicklaus has already sanctified the number 18 in golf with his PGA Tour record for career major championships.
But let's face it: In this sport, anytime you win something 18 times, it's spectacular.
Keith Decker easily finished off his 18th career win at the 51st annual Chatmoss Invitational with a 1-under 71 in the second and final round at Chatmoss Country Club on Sunday.
"Anytime you win on your home course, it feels great," said Decker, noting that this field was the deepest of any invitational he's played in. "I think if you look at the scores now compared to what they were 10 years ago, the scores are a lot better now. Even my scores are better now.
"You always want to do well on your home course. You know the people around here are cheering for you," he added. "And as sort of a pride thing, you don't want somebody coming from outside to win your tournament."�
Directly behind Decker (66-71 - 137) was another local. Jack Adkins, a 2010 Carlisle graduate, shot a round-two 70 Sunday after his even-par 72 Saturday to come within five shots of Decker. Adkins tied for second with Ringgold native Andrew Tilley (70-72 - 142).
"It's tough to beat (Decker) here," said Chatmoss club pro Robert Winerth. "But to have Jack come in second and tie with Andrew Tilley - both local kids, younger kids - it shows that the younger kids, they're coming up. Obviously they're getting older, better, smarter, more patient."�
Decker's 71 followed a 6-under 66 in Saturday's first round, which was the lowest score of the tournament.
"In every tournament, there's certain situations where you do have to play defense, and today I had to do it a little more than I normally do," said Decker, who won the 2010 tournament by one stroke. "I'd rather have been more aggressive, but I didn't want to do anything stupid."�
The 50-year-old Martinsville native could afford to play defense Sunday as most of his competitors from Day 1 fell off.
Seth Norman trailed Decker by three strokes entering Sunday's round, but the Virginia Beach native fired an 81 on Day 2. Joe Morton shot a round-one 70, but a round-two 79 put him out of contention as well. Adkins and Tilley, in fact, were the only players in the top 10 Saturday to gain ground on Sunday.
As expected, weather was an issue Sunday. The temperature hovered below 40 degrees throughout the day, and a stiff breeze didn't help.
"It was so cold you weren't hitting the ball as well, and you have a hard time getting your feel for things on a day like today," Decker said. "It was a little more defensive."�
One of the few golfers who improved from the first round to the second in spite of worsening weather was Adkins.
In his second year competing in the tournament, the freshman from Elon University shot the second-best round of the day behind Jon Hurst's 68.
After triple-bogeying the first hole Saturday, Adkins played the next 35 holes at five-under par.
"I got off to a little better start" Sunday, Adkins said. "I was able to make some putts for birdie. When I made bogeys, I kind of had trouble off the tee with the driver, but I was fortunate enough to make birdies to equal out those bogeys I made."�
"I remember (Adkins) from this tall," said Decker, an Elon alum, referencing Adkins' childhood years. "I couldn't be more proud of him."�
Steve Sharpe (71-73 - 144), of Greensboro, N.C., finished fourth, while Hurst (77-68 - 145), of Fredericksburg, and Steve Firkins (73-72 - 145), of Midlothian, tied for fifth.
Other Henry County natives in the top 30 included Ridgeway's Dylan Jensen (75-76 - 151, t-17), Martinsville's Billy Teegen (75-76 - 151, t-17), Martinsville's Jeff Adkins (76-76 - 152, t-23) and Martinsville's Jerry Wood (73-79 - 152, t-23).
Decker takes a quick lead in the Virginia State Golf Association points standings, where he has finished at the top in every year but one since the points system began in 2001. The Chatmoss Invitational is the first VSGA points event of the season.
And as he enters his fifties, Decker has shown no signs of slowing down - especially at Chatmoss, where he is hoping to win a few more invitationals.
"I love the competition," he said. "I play with these guys all the time. We have some good battles and we're ribbing each other, and giving each other the jab, and all that."�
So how many more Chatmoss Invitationals might he win?
"Twenty would be nice," he said smiling. "But 18 sure is pretty good too."�