Joo repeats as ABF tourney champion
FRONT ROYAL – Yong Joo returned to Shenandoah Valley Golf Club for the 21st Annual Apple Blossom Pro-Am golf tournament Wednesday for the first time since winning the event last season. His encore performance was even better than the original.
Joo, who set a tournament record with a 63 in his Apple Blossom Pro-Am debut last spring, topped that mark Wednesday with a 9-under-par 62 to repeat as tournament champion. Joo’s 62, which also tied the course record set by Bobby Mauck back in the early history of Shenandoah Valley Golf Club according to PGA head golf professional Jeff Forman, beat runners-up Dirk Schultz and Marty O’Rear (65) by three strokes for the top professional score and the $1,000 prize.
“I was feeling OK. I didn’t think I was going to do what I did today, obviously,” said Joo, a Maurertown resident who serves as a PGA apprentice at DPGolf Academy in Bristow. “I wanted to kind of start the season, so I wanted to hit more fairways and greens. I did the green part pretty well but the fairways were just a little bit shaky, but I got fortunate on a couple occasions. Even though I hit it at a tree, it bounced in a spot where I could actually still hit the shot. I got away with a few shots there.”
Joo, who admitted he didn’t know how well he shooting until his round on the White and Blue nines was completed, said despite having not played the course since he won the tournament last year and missing fairways frequently, he felt comfortable reading the greens.
Joo, who began his round on the fifth hole of the White Nine, bogeyed two holes during his round but offset those with 11 birdies, including a string of six straight on the final six holes of the Blue Nine. Joo credited playing partner Kurt Nelson – one of three DPGolf Academy students that Joo teamed up with on Wednesday – with helping him get a good read of the greens on a pair of 30-foot birdie putts on the sixth and eighth holes of the Blue Nine.
“Actually there were two in that stretch of six where my partner didn’t hit a very good putt but actually hit it kind of by the hole, but it was kind of similar on my line,” Joo said. “He actually putted it quite a bit past the hole, so that he putted first and I was able to see the line. I probably made two maybe 30-footers because of him. He’s done that on a few occasions since we’ve been partners. One of them I actually even called it because he showed me the line.”
In the morning round, Schultz, a five-time Apple Blossom Pro-Am champion and last year’s runner-up, carded a 65 on the par-71 course that at the time led the tournament field by three strokes.
Schultz, a regular participant in the tournament since the mid-1990s, said he got off to a strong start while hitting his driver well for the entirety of his round.
“Started on White 9, birdied 9 and hit it about 10 or 12 feet on number one Blue and made it for eagle, so I was 3-under right away,” said Schultz, the head golf professional at Beaver Creek Country Club in Hagerstown, Maryland.
In the amateur competition, 1999 Sherando High School graduate Josh Riggleman returned to the top of the leader board after a runner-up finish last year broke his two-year winning streak. Riggleman, who now lives in Bunker Hill, West Virginia, fired a 4-under-par 67 on Wednesday, matching his career-best round at SVGC that he set in a winning effort in 2012.
“It was weird. I made 14 pars and four birdies, no bogeys,” said Riggleman. “One of them ‘could’ve’ rounds – I missed three 4-footers for birdies. But just a straightforward round of golf. I was really happy. I hit it really well today. Didn’t really get myself in trouble at all. Just fairways and greens, made a couple putts.”
Riggleman’s 67 was better than all but four professional golfers who competed on Wednesday. He beat fellow amateurs Ira Pearlman (70) and Chris Boyd (70) by three strokes for the title.
“I hit the driver really well. I think I missed maybe two fairways, two or three fairways maybe, and those were just off the fairways,” he said. “I can attribute that round of golf to my driver. I hit it really well.”
O’Rear’s team, comprised of Karl Kerns, Rick Isaac and Paul McDermott, won the team competition with a total of 121 strokes and took home a $750 prize. Brad Walker and Bob Laver tied for the top amateur net score as both carded a 61.
In all, Forman said 53 teams and more than 200 individual golfers participated in the 21st annual Apple Blossom Pro-Am, which was conducted under a cloudless sky in 80-degree weather after having to work around poor weather conditions last spring.
“Beautiful day, absolutely. Couldn’t ask for anything better,” Forman said. “The course was in great shape. Kudos to my superintendent, Peter Schmidt, and all his crew. The staff here at Shenandoah did a great job. I think we ended up with 53 total teams. You can’t ask for anything better than that. That’s almost a full field for us.”
Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com