Woodson cruises to State Open victory

MIDLOTHIAN, VA (WWBT) - Professional Jay Woodson, 30, of Richmond delivered his second consecutive round of 4-under-par 68 and blew past the field to post a four-stroke win at the SunTrust State Open of Virginia, which concluded Sunday at the 7,033-yard, par 72 Independence Golf Club.

In claiming his first SunTrust State Open title, Woodson finished the championship at 13-under 275. Charlottesville's Weston Eklund, a 22-year-old rising senior at Radford University closed with 2-under 70 to take home low amateur honors and was runner-up at 9-under 279. Amateur Ji Soo Park, 19, of Centreville, a rising sophomore at the University of Virginia had 71 (7-under 281). Fellow Professional Steven Pierce, 26, of Centreville, with whom Woodson was grouped in the final round, concluded play with 74-282.

Woodson, who plays the developmental NGA Tour, will have his name engraved on the Farmington Trophy and etched his name into history. He became the seventh player to triumph at the VSGA Amateur and the State Open. The others are Keith Decker, Vinny Giles, Chandler Harper, Tom McKnight as well as brothers Bobby and Lanny Wadkins. Woodson won back-to-back VSGA Amateurs in 2002 (Bayville Golf Club in Virginia Beach) and 2003 (central Virginia's Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot).

He turned professional in the spring of 2004 and has been eyeing a SunTrust State Open triumph ever since. Woodson was a part of the winning team at Monday's pro-am at the event; now, he'll have to make room for a larger and much-coveted trophy.

With soft greens and conditions ripe for scoring if competitors drove it in the fairway, Woodson used a deft putting touch to take control of the championship. After starting the day at nine under par, he ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch between Nos. 2 and 5, making a combined 50-plus feet of putts during that deciding span. He holed putts inside 20 feet at Nos. 2 and 4, knocked in a 6-footer at No. 5 before sweeping in a left-to-right breaking 18-footer at No. 6 to get to 12 under and move five strokes ahead of his next-nearest pursuer in Pierce.

Woodson one-putted the first six holes to turn in 3-under 33. He knocked in birdie putts of 7 and 22 feet to start the inward half and used just 13 putts through the first 11 holes to get to 14 under before rolling to his seventh victory as a professional.

For all of his ball-striking prowess, Woodson's performance on the putting surfaces was a large determiner of the event's outcome.

Woodson has won two tournaments in just over a month's time frame; he captured the NGA Tour's ComSouth Classic in Hawkinsville, Ga., in June.

Admittedly, this triumph holds particular significance for Woodson, who says his first exposure to golf at some of the highest levels came from watching his uncle, Mike Moyers (PGA professional at Greene Hills Club in Stanardsville), play in the SunTrust State Open while he was growing up and starting to get acclimated to the game.

Eklund was tied for the lead at the halfway point of the championship, but played the first three holes of the third round in four over par. He recovered and was seven under over the last 32 holes, including a concluding birdie on Sunday.

Pierce, an assistant professional at northern Virginia's Chantilly National Golf and Country Club, could only watch, along with amateur Jake Mondy (Blacksburg) this summer's VSGA Amateur champion, as Woodson drained putt after putt.

The words 'Let's do this' are inscribed on the back of Woodson's gap wedge – they proved prophetic on Sunday. He is the first professional to win the SunTrust State Open since 2009 when Faber Jamerson of Appomattox triumphed.

A graduate of Powhatan High School and James Madison University, Woodson had his brother, Paul as his caddie, and his father, mother, wife, niece and a healthy contingent from Mill Quarter Plantation Golf Club were in attendance during the final round.

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