Nicholas Taliaferro’s first victory at the Richmond Golf Association Junior Amateur Championship was one he’ll likely well remember.

The 17-year-old Midlothian resident delivered a final-round championship best 3-under-par 69 to register a four-stroke victory as the 68th edition of the City Junior concluded today at the Country Club of Petersburg.

Taliaferro concluded the event with a 2-under 142 aggregate and was the only competitor in the boys’ 15-18 age division (playing the longest set of tees) to post a 36-hole score in red numbers.

Taliaferro will have his name engraved on the Griffin W. Clark trophy. Clark, the winner of the event in 2012 and 2013 and a former Thomas Dale High School standout, was killed tragically on July 4, 2016. The RGA is honoring his memory by naming the trophy in Clark’s honor. Griffin’s father, Kenny, the PGA head professional at the Country Club of Petersburg for more than 11 years, presented the champion on Wednesday as a tribute to his son.

“To have my name on the trophy with Griffin, Bobby and Lanny Wadkins, it’s really cool,” said Taliaferro, a rising senior at James River High School.

Richmond’s Rob Witherspoon (73) closed play at 2-over 146, while defending champion and first-day overnight leader Andrew Kennedy of Henrico (76) and Patrick Murphy of Glen Allen (73) finished five back at 3-over 147. At age 18, Witherspoon and Kennedy were competing in their last RGA Junior before aging out. Murphy is 17.

Taliaferro had never played the course before prior to Tuesday’s opening round and, in the final round, was a part of the same group of three with Kennedy and Witherspoon who finished 1-2 at last year’s RGA Junior on a dramatic closing day. But Taliaferro, the possessor of a languid and syrupy swing, showed uncanny composure in sweltering conditions to post four birdies against a meaningless bogey at the last.

Kennedy played steadily on the outward half to get to three under par for the championship. He was three strokes ahead of Taliaferro headed to the second nine. That said, for Taliaferro, shooting one under on the outward half was something of a moral victory in improving his first-day aggregate by four strokes at day’s end.

“On [Tuesday] it was a 40 on the front nine and today I shot 35, so five better. Maybe that was because [Tuesday] was the first time [he saw the course] and now I knew it a little bit better, but I just got off to a little bit of a better start. No bogeys on the front nine as opposed to four [Tuesday],” said Taliaferro, a member at Salisbury Country Club. “When I turned at 35, I knew, ‘Whoa, that’s a lot better than [Tuesday].’ ”  

It took only one hole on the inward half for Taliaferro to erase the deficit. At the par-4 10th, Taliaferro nearly holed out his 60-degree wedge shot and converted the kick-in birdie, while Kennedy made double-bogey 6, resulting in a three-shot swing.

Due to some inconsistent ball striking and misfortune at most inopportune moments, Kennedy made double at Nos. 11 and 13 as Taliaferro continued his consistent play. Thereafter, he hit the accelerator, draining a 7-footer for birdie at the par-4 14th before chipping and putting his way to birdie at the par-5 15th hole. His advantage ballooned to six strokes over Kennedy and Witherspoon with three holes to play.

“Nerves started to kick in, but at [No.] 14, I hit a really good drive and made another birdie. And at [No.] 15 I made another birdie,” said Taliaferro, who was making his second start in the event, having played in 2015. He was on vacation when last year’s championship was held. “That’s when I felt like I was in good position.”

Andrews never recovered from making three doubles over the first four holes on the back nine.

“That last nine holes—I wish I could take over and do it again,” said Andrews, who is headed to Radford University in the fall. “But 69 is hard to beat. It’s going to win the tournament on the last day.”

Witherspoon, the 2014 victor, battled an on-again, off-again putter in his quest to triumph in his final appearance in the event.

“I had some good chances, but I couldn’t get the putts to fall,” said Witherspoon, who will attend Hampden-Sydney College in the autumn. “I was hitting the putts right where I wanted to, but maybe I was playing too much break. If I would have made a few more chances, I would’ve had a shot at it.”

Murphy, 17, responded from a sluggish start and rallied to shoot 1-under 35 on the second nine to climb up the leaderboard. Midlothian’s Dylan Fox, 16,claimed the boys’ 15-16 age division after signing for 2-under 70, signaling the only other round under par on the last day in addition to Taliaferro’s score.

At the seventh renewal of the RGA Girls’ Junior Amateur, 15-year-old event rookie Jessica Rathbone (Montpelier) carded a final-day best total of 2-over 74 to post a wire-to-wire runaway victory. A rising sophomore at Patrick Henry High School, Rathbone’s shot even par on the outward nine. Her many moments of brilliance during the two-day competition included holing a 45-yard short pitch shot for eagle at the par-5 15th hole during the final round. The ball landed softly on the front of the green, broke from left to right and rolled into the hole like a putt.

“I knew it would be a tough competition,” Rathbone said. “After I realized that I was playing well after the first day, I knew that I could do better on the second day.”

In other action, Quint Dingledine, 14, of Richmond posted even-par 72 to capture the 13-14-year-old boys’ division, who played a shorter yardage than the 15-18-year-olds and thus, could not win the overall title. Coupled with his opening round 70, Dingledine finished at 2-under 142 and was one of only two boys’ competitors among the 28 players age 13 and older in the field to post a 36-hole under par total.

Ages 12 and under played nine holes each day, with Richmond’s Talon Dingledine (8-over 80, 38-42) winning the boys’ category, while Madison Lehr of Mechanicsville (104) claimed the girls’ division.   

BOYS’ AGES 17-18

Nicholas Taliaferro (Midlothian), 73-69—142 (overall champion)

Rob Witherspoon (Richmond), 73-73—146 (first place in the age group)

Patrick Murphy (Glen Allen), 74-73—147 (second place in the age group)

Andrew Kennedy (Henrico), 71-76—147

Taylor Cunningham (Richmond), 78-72—150

Ethan Hawkins (Midlothian), 82-72—154

Keith Marks (Midlothian), 81-78—159

Patrick Hineline (Richmond), 86-79—165

Jackson Sheppard (Midlothian), 84-82—166

Carson Wiley (Richmond), 86-85—171

Alex Waltman (Colonial Heights), 86-86—172 d

BOYS’ AGES 15-16

Dylan Fox (Midlothian), 78-70—148 (age group winner)

Noah Wheeler (Midlothian), 76-78—154 (second place in the age group)

Hunter Milligan (Manakin-Sabot), 78-79—157

Gabe Parker (Richmond), 77-80—157

Trevor Elliott (Henrico), 76-88—164

Patrick Galleher (Midlothian), 82-83—165

David Andrews (Richmond), 85-88—173

Odin Anderson (Midlothian), 95-78—173

Jakob Schwartz (Glen Allen), 86-96—182

Christian Andrews (Richmond), 91-91—182

BOYS’ AGES 13-14

Quint Dingledine (Richmond), 70-72—142 (first place in the age group)

Charlie Kennedy (Henrico), 74-75—149 (second place in the age group)

Vijay Powell (Midlothian), 78-73—151 
Ian Quindoza (Midlothian), 78-73—151 
Jack Hoyle (Midlothian), 84-92—176 

Tyler Tingen (Chester), 89-90—179

Phillip Clarke (Henrico), 93-97—190

Christopher Tarczynski (Moseley), DNF

Cole Diers (Richmond), DNS

BOYS’ AGES 12 AND UNDER (nine holes each day)

Talon Dingledine (Richmond), 38-42—80 (age group winner)

Gage Foddrell (Richmond), 39-45—84 (second place in the age group) 

Jason Casullo (Glen Allen), 46-45—91

Ivan Chan (Midlothian), 51-52—103

Turntin Lin (Richmond), 54-56—110

GIRLS’ DIVISION

Jessica Rathbone (Montpelier), 75-74—149 (winner of the overall girls’ division)

Erica Whitehouse (Mechanicsville), 80-83—163 (second place in the overall girls’ division) 

Ester Choi (Midlothian), 85-90—175 (winner of the 13-14 girls’ age group) 
D’yan Robinson (Richmond), 87-89—176

Gwen Foddrell (Richmond), 94-93—187 (winner of the 14-15 girls’ age group)

Nicole Chang (Midlothian), 105-106—211

GIRLS’ AGES 12 AND UNDER (nine holes each day)
Madison Lehr (Mechanicsville), 51-53—104 (age group winner)

 

Niki Chan (Midlothian), 52-55—107