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Taliaferro holds one-shot lead at State Open of Virginia presented by CapTech

July 15, 2022

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By Chris Lang

MIDLOTHIAN — Radford University’s Nick Taliaferro, who grew up just minutes from Independence Golf Club, posted a 6-under-par 65 on Friday to take a one-stroke lead after the first round of the State Open of Virginia, presented by CapTech.

Richmond’s Mark Lawrence Jr., the 2020 State Open champion and two-time VSGA Amateur champion, posted a 5-under 66 and enters Saturday’s second round in second. Glen Allen professional Chris O’Neill, playing in his first State Open since 2013, returned a 4-under 67. He’s tied for third with Richmond amateur Joey Jordan.

After Saturday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 60 players and ties for Sunday’s third and final round.


Taliaferro’s tournament week got off to an inauspicious start when a loose screw left him with a non-functional driver for Thursday’s practice round. He played the first nine holes using a friend’s driver before Taliaferro’s father arrived with a new driver for the back nine.

He didn’t seem to have any issues with the new stick in Friday’s first round. Taliaferro carded six birdies during a bogey-free round—three each on Independence’s front and back nines. Coming off a fourth-place finish in last year’s State Open, Taliaferro continued his strong play at Independence, which should be a surprise to no one. He attended nearby James River High School, and Independence was the Rapids’ home course.

“I played out here before I ever really even played competitive golf,” Taliaferro said. “I live five minutes away. I’ve always been pretty familiar with all of the holes.”

Taliaferro parred the first four holes before making an uphill 25-footer for birdie on No. 5, jumpstarting his round.

“I drove it really well,” Taliaferro said. “From there, I tried to play to certain spots and go for certain pins and give myself as many birdie putts as I could get.”

Lawrence, who was low professional in last year’s State Open, got off to a rousing start on Friday, holing out from 95 yards away with a 60-degree wedge on No. 12 for an eagle on his third hole. (He started off No. 10).

“I’ve holed out on that hole probably six or seven times,” Lawrence said. “But a lot of the times, I’m hitting driver over that bunker on the left, and I’ll have a 30-yard pitch and hole out with that. I’m not usually back there closer to 100 yards.”

Lawrence got to 6-under for his round through 10 holes but played his last eight holes at 1 over, leaving him a little disappointed after the round.

“My front nine, the putter was just on fire, and I felt like I was going to make everything I hit,” Lawrence said. “On my back nine, my speed control was off a bit. I left a lot of strokes out there. I felt like I hit the ball well enough and did enough things well that I could have thrown up a really low number. I just didn’t do it. Hopefully I can do it tomorrow.”

O’Neill, who grew up in Glen Allen and played at the University of Michigan before embarking on a professional career that included a run on the MacKenzie Tour (now PGA Tour Canada), made six birdies and worked around a pair of bogeys for his 4-under round.

“I’ve really struggled the last nine months, so I’m pretty happy with how I played overall. It’s a lot better than I have been doing,” O’Neill said. “I played pretty well in 2020, the COVID year, but since then, I feel like my game has been in a little bit of a decline. I haven’t been executing a lot of good shots and have just had a lot of sloppy rounds out there. Not enough good 6- or 7-under rounds. Too many 1- and 2-unders.”

O’Neill said was likely giving up playing golf for a living following this State Open. He said he was thankful for a chance to play on home turf as he considers his next steps in life.

“I’ve kind of decided that this is going to be the sendoff for my pro career,” O’Neill said. “I’m shutting it down. This’ll be the last serious event I play, so I guess it’s like a little retirement party here at home.”

Jordan was the only one among the top four to play in the afternoon wave on Friday. He started on No. 10 and made three straight birdies on holes 12, 13 and 14 to get his round going. He held it together and made the turn at 3-under. He took advantage of the par 5s on the back, making birdie on both, and just missed a bogey-free round by making a four on the par-3 9th.

Jordan’s tee shot was long and ended up on a downslope behind the green, forcing a delicate chip that just made it to the green, leaving a medium-length putt for par.

“I was stepping into my tee shot, and then I felt a gust of wind, and I backed off, and then it was constant,” Jordan said. “So I grabbed one more (club), and I hit a really good shot and it just rolled through the back. Then a tough chip, and I just missed the putt. I definitely wanted the bogey-free round, but if I could take 67 from the start of the day, I’d buy that, for sure.”


  • O’Neill was paired with four-time State Open champion Jay Woodson Friday, marking the second straight time the two have played together in a State Open round. But those rounds were nine years apart. “It was 2013. I played with Jay in the final round, but I think he was up by eight or nine shots, so I was quite a bit out of it,” O’Neill said with a laugh. “But I played a ton of junior events here growing up, and I live 20 minutes away, so I love this place.”
  • Just behind the top four players are 2019 champion Jack Montague and former Virginia Tech standout Connor Burgess, who recently turned professional. Each shot 3-under rounds of 68.
  • Dick Mast, the 71-year-old PGA Life Member, continued to flourish in this event, posting a 2-under 69 in the first round.
  • Defending champion Evan Beck needed to rally to finish with an even-par 71. He was 2-over through seven holes after a double bogey on 16 (he started on No. 10). He played the rest of his round at 2-under to get back level.
  • A 6-under 65 was the low score of last year’s first round at Independence as well.
  • There was a delay of 1 hour 16 minutes during the afternoon wave due to dangerous weather conditions.

Lang is the VSGA’s Manager of Media and Communications. The State Open of Virginia is jointly conducted by the VSGA and Middle Atlantic PGA.