The 46th Roanoke Valley Hall of Fame men’s championship tees off Friday at Blacksburg Country Club.
Who’s the guy to beat?
The answer is as simple as tapping in a 6-inch putt.
Yes, once again it appears to be Hunting Hills ace Matt Chandler versus the 56 other players in the field.
For good reason, too.
“I hope you didn’t bet much,” cracked Chandler, responding to much chatter that’s it’s him against the rest.
Yes, he’s again the overwhelming favorite to post his tournament-record fourth consecutive victory and record his fifth triumph in six years in the 54-hole stroke-play event.
“Is it a big deal?” Chandler said. “I would say, ‘no, it’s not a big deal!’ Does it get old? I would say no as well.”
That established, somebody is going to have to come get the 36-year-old former mini-tour pro from Franklin County if they want to take him down. Good luck on that.
“I’m going to try to win, but it’s not life or death,” Chandler said. “But if I’m going to stick a peg in the ground, I’m definitely going to give it my best effort and see what happens.”
Good luck to his possible chasers in the tournament that moves to Ashley Plantation on Saturday and winds up Sunday at Blue Hills.
Those not willing to lay their loot on the heavy chalk will be pulling hard for such heavy-underdog chasers as reigning Roanoke Valley Match Play champion John Hatcher Ferguson, two-time HOF champion Brandon LaCroix, 2010 winner Darrell Craft of Roanoke Country Club and Ole Monterey’s Chase Bailey.
Other longshots include teenager Ross Funderburke of Hidden Valley and Blacksburg veterans George Perkovich and Richie Jeter.
Chandler will be gunning for his sixth HOF crown since he first teed it up in the event in 2013. The only other player to capture the crown other than Chandler during that span was Ole Monterey’s Justin Young in 2014.
Young is not competing this year.
Ferguson, coming off a productive freshman season at Hampden-Sydney, made seven birdies and took down Chandler in a stunning upset to capture last year’s Roanoke Valley Match Play title. Can he pull another shocker?
“Of course, I would love to get in position to beat Matt,” said Ferguson, whose RVMP triumph was fueled by seven birdies. “If there is someone to beat him I want it to be me. I love to see Matt do well … we’re good friends, we’ve played together some. I always have a good time talking to him.”
Ferguson was quick to note that Chandler fired a blistering 10-under-par 61, including a sizzling 6-under 29 on the final nine on his own ball last week in a member-guest event at Willow Creek in Franklin County.
“I guess consistency would be a good word for Matt’s game,” Ferguson said. “He’s just always there, he’s always in play. I’m longer than him off the tee but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I gain shots over him off the tee.
“He’s hitting every single fairway. He’s in play on every hole and he’s going to hit 14, 15 or 16 greens a round. He almost just bores you to death from tee to green because he doesn’t do anything wrong. And then when he starts to fire at pins and starts getting a little bit of confidence and going after pins, he starts rolling in putts and he’s going to shoot 65 or 66.
“So you can’t mess around and make a bunch of doubles and stuff. You’ve got to be on your game. And when he’s off his game, he’s really not that off because of the way his game is set up. He’s not somebody who has to go out here and make a ton of putts to shoot 68. He will miss putts and shoot 68.”