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Nick Taliaferro wins State Open of Virginia presented by CapTech

July 17, 2022

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By Chris Lang

MIDLOTHIAN — Radford University’s Nick Taliaferro made a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole Sunday to win the State Open of Independence presented by CapTech by one stroke over defending champion Evan Beck of Virginia Beach.

Taliaferro, who grew up minutes from Independence Golf Club, the host of the event, posted a three-day aggregate 10-under-par 203, finishing with a 1-over-par 72 on Sunday. He fended off Beck, who rallied for a 9-under 204 that included a 6-under 65 in Sunday’s final round.

“If you told me a month ago I would win this tournament, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. I wasn’t hitting it well at all,” Taliaferro said. “But since the second round of the State Am, I’ve been playing really well. I don’t know. It’s hard to put it into words. It’s cliché. But it’s obviously a big confidence boost to know I can play against the best players in the state and win.”

Richmond’s Mark Lawrence and Glen Allen’s Chris O’Neill shared low professional honors, each posting three-day aggregate totals of 5-under-par 208. They tied for third with amateur Alex Price, who plays at Christopher Newport University.


It almost seemed like it was going a little too well for Taliaferro, who has plenty of history at Independence. He played at nearby James River High School, which practices and plays at the club, and he finished in fourth place in last year’s State Open of Virginia. That comfort level was evident after 12 holes of his final round. He sat at 14-under, five strokes clear of his nearest competitor, and a win seemed inevitable. Until it wasn’t.

Taliaferro hit his drive on the long par-4 13th hole left, but he still had a reasonable lie and window for his approach shot. Then things got weird. His second shot drifted into the spongy bermuda rough left of the green. Even worse, he had a downhill lie for a delicate chip and not much room with which to work. His shot went long and trickled over the green, and he was unable to get up and down for bogey. Suddenly the lead was down to three strokes.

“That didn’t really rattle me,” he said. “It was just a case of being in the wrong spot.”

He quickly recovered on the par-3 14th. He hit his tee shot well to the right, but on the green, and he lagged the putt close and made par to settle his nerves.

On to the 15th, where the newly installed far right back tee box had given players fits all week. Taliaferro’s first drive hooked hard left and well out of bounds. His provisional went to the right into a penalty area, and he had to take relief for a one-stroke penalty. His fourth shot (including the two penalty strokes) flew the green, and he was unable to get up and down, leaving him with a disastrous triple-bogey seven.

Taliaferro’s Radford teammate, Channing Blevins, caddied for Taliaferro all week, and offered some simple words to calm him down once the pair reached the 16th tee.

“If I had told him Friday morning that he’d be tied for the lead with three holes to go, he probably would have taken it,” Blevins said. “So let’s forget about the last three holes and do the best we can and get a couple of good looks.

Beck was already in the clubhouse at 9-under at that point, so Taliaferro knew he needed to play the last three holes at 1-under to secure the victory.

Taliaferro regained the steadiness that had been the benchmark of his game all week. He hit his drive on 16 down the middle and made a two-putt par. On the par-5 17th, he was straight down the middle again and made a two-putt par. On 18, Taliaferro hit what Blevins called “his best drive of the week,” leaving him an 8-iron approach that he hit to 12 feet, hole high right.

Taliaferro and Blevins conferred for several minutes over the putt, and Taliaferro admitted he had some nerves as he lined up to hit it.

“Deep breaths,” he said. “Just kept telling myself, deep breaths. It’s something I was working on.”

The putt was straight and true from the start. With it three feet from the hole, Taliaferro raised his putter, and when it dropped, and the sizeable gallery surrounding 18 roared, and Taliaferro pumped his fist, the championship secure.

“I knew the read,” he said. “I just had to put a good stroke on it.”


  • Lawrence, the 2020 champion, started the week 6 under through 10 holes in Friday’s first round. But he was 1-over for the rest of the tournament, leaving him admittedly disappointed. Though the low professional honor (his second straight) was nice, he certainly expected more, and he left the week knowing his game needed some work. “I’ve been struggling ever since I came back (from injury),” he said. “I haven’t been able to get dialed in and play really good golf. You watched today, and you could see that something wasn’t right with my golf game. I started hitting the ball decent on the back nine, then I stopped making putts. The back nine, I made putts, but I hit the ball like a 10-handicapper. It’s going to take some work to get back, but I’m going to figure it out.”
  • O’Neill confirmed after the round that Sunday was his last round as a professional golfer. “I thought it would be a little more nostalgic, but I guess since I was in contention for low pro, I wasn’t thinking too much about the emotions or whatever,” he said. “Now that it’s over, yeah, it feels weird, but I feel very content with everything. I’m happy I gave it a good go, and kind of excited for whatever’s next.”
  • Springfield G&CC’s Larkin Gross, PGA, was the low PGA professional at 3-under 210.
  • An amateur won the State Open of Virginia for the fourth year in a row. Prior to that, professionals had won seven straight Opens.
  • Both the youngest player in the field—Brandon Sipe, 13—and the oldest player in the field—Dick Mast, PGA, 71—made the cut. Mast tied for 23rd at 215, and Sipe tied for 39th at 218.
  • In all, 72 players made the 36-hole cut at 5-over par or better.

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.