By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
They were teammates for three years at Virginia Tech. Now, the “other” Hokie in the Greenbrier Classic field, Brendon de Jonge, has some work to do to catch up with his fellow alumnus, Johnson Wagner.
De Jonge carded his first over par round of the PGA Tour tournament, a 73 on the par-70 Old White Course, on Saturday and fell to a tie for 47th, 11 strokes behind tourney leader Wagner.
“It got a little bit tricky out there,” said de Jonge, “(when) the wind started blowing. I just didn't play very well.”
De Jonge, born in the African nation of Zimbabwe, started the week in White Sulphur with a 66 and followed that with a 68 on Friday.
On Saturday, he was able to par each of his first 11 holes. His chances unraveled with string of five bogeys followed on holes 12 through 15.
He finished the day strongly. His tee shot on the par-5 hole No. 17 landed in the rough to the left of the fairway. His next swing placed the ball about 12 feet from the cup, and was greeted with applause from the large gallery. Like many of Saturday's competitors, he left his first putt a couple of inches short, and sunk the next try for his only birdie of the day.
On the final hole, his first drive carried across Howard's Creek which flows in front of the green, but the ball landed in some tall hay off the green, about 18 feet from the pin. His chip from there arced high, and stopped just about an inch from the hole. His successful putt for par resulted in a 3-over round for the day, and he is 3-under through 54 holes.
He's not about to concede, to a fellow Hokie or anyone else.
He said, “Tomorrow, I'll have an earlier tee time, so, hopefully, I'll have a good round early tomorrow, and make up some ground.”
Asked about his former teammate while Wagner was still on the course, de Jonge said, “He's obviously playing very well. Last leaderboard I saw, he was leading by a couple, so you know he's playing well, and he plays well when he's in the lead.”
After his round concluded, Wagner described his connection with de Jonge, and how together they played a part in changing the perception of Virginia Tech men's golf.
Wagner said, “Tech was really the only place that recruited me to play golf. We were in the Atlantic 10 my first two years. We were awful for two straight years, and then Brendon came in, my sophomore year, and we started getting pretty good that year.
“Then, the last two years, we just took off. We had a great team, same starting five pretty much every week for two years. Those were some of the best times of my life. I loved those guys. We had it all, there.”
De Jonge said that fans and supporters of the Blacksburg-based school come out to the Greenbrier Classic and make them feel welcome.
“There's always a ton of Virginia Tech people around here, so it's a nice fun event for us,” he said.
Like the other Greenbrier Classic players, de Jonge was very pleased with the off-the-field experiences that The Greenbrier resort puts together for them.
“We've been to a couple of the concerts, we've shot some skeet. There's a bunch of stuff to do around here,” he said. He called Greenbrier owner Jim Justice “a great host. He sets up a great tournament, and it's one that everyone looks forward to.”
De Jonge's past finishes in the Greenbrier Classic include a third-place mark in 2010 and a tie for fourth in 2011. He is scheduled to tee off at 9:51 a.m. today, paired with Andres Romero.
— Contact Tom Bone at bdtonline.com