By Brad Fauber
FRONT ROYAL -- The 19th Annual Apple Blossom Pro-Am Golf Tournament at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club looked a little bit different this year, as the nine-hole White course that traditionally accompanied the Blue Nine was removed from the 18-hole event in favor of the Red course.
The switch may have added a new challenge for some veterans of the tournament, but Dirk Schultz simply has too many rounds at the course under his belt to be thrown off by such a change.
Schultz, a steady participant in the Pro-Am since the tournament's early years in the mid-1990s, has over three decades of experience on the links at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, and his knowledge and understanding of the course was on full display on Wednesday. Schultz claimed the top spot in the tournament for second straight year, and the fifth time overall, with his eight-under par score of 64. He won the event by a comfortable four strokes.
"I've participated in it for a long time," Schultz said of the Apple Blossom Pro-Am. "I started playing [at Shenandoah Valley] 30 years ago, so I know the course pretty well. I probably have over 100 rounds there, so it's probably my second home. I have a lot of second homes, though ... but I get to play at Shenandoah Valley at least two or three times a year."
Schultz, the head golf professional at Beaver Creek Country Club in Hagerstown, Md., has played more rounds at Shenandoah Valley than he can count, but Wednesday's performance certainly goes down as one of the most memorable ones for him on the course.
Schultz was strong from start to finish, and he credited the "perfect" course conditions and the beautiful weather for helping him achieve what very well could be his personal best score at Shenandoah Valley.
The longtime golfer converted eight birdies during the morning session, and he also added an eagle on the par-5, 546-yard first hole on Blue.
"This was probably my best round there -- a 64 was probably the worst I could have shot there today," Schultz said. "I didn't birdie nine on the blue or nine on the red, they're both very reachable par 5s, and I had two bogeys on top of that. But it was a good day.
"I drove it really straight today. The fairways are real wide, I think I hit 10 of 14 fairways and the other ones were just off, so that was good."
Schultz's solid day easily kept him ahead of fellow professionals Harvey Haddock, John O'Leary and Robert Reed, who each finished tied for second place with a score of 68.
Winchester's Josh Riggleman also turned in an outstanding round in the morning session, as he finished with a 69 (34, 35) to finish atop the amateur gross score standings for the second straight year.
Woody Fitzhugh claimed the top spot in the senior professional standings with a score of 71, ahead of Mark Guttenberg (73) and Marty O'Rear (74). Chris Helsley and Bill Shortencarrier tied atop the amateur net score leaderboard, as each turned in a 61.
Forty-nine teams -- each comprised of one professional and three amateurs -- participated in the event, with professional Rick Burke's team winning with a total score of 120.
Miles Loughlin, who is in his first year as the head golf professional at the Shenandoah Valley Golf Club, has participated in the Apple Blossom Pro-Am in the past, and he was pleased with how the event played out on Wednesday.
"It was nice weather and the course [played] exceptionally well," Loughlin said. "This is my first year running it ... but the course seemed to be better than ever. I would have to say that participation was about average, it wasn't up or down. The course played well. Obviously it didn't play hard enough, somebody went out there and tore it up, but I thought it was good all-in-all."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org