Tribe Scribe: Matthew Feinstein was nearly flawless in winning the VCU Shootout

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By Dave Johnson

W&M Athletics

 

What William & Mary’s Matthew Feinstein did earlier this week at the Country Club of Virginia surprised his coaches and teammates. Most of all, it surprised himself.
 
“I’m pretty confident in most aspects of life,” he said, “but not really golf.”
 
In the most remarkable three rounds of his life, Feinstein shot a program-record 15-under par (69-65-67—201) to win the VCU Shootout. He did it in style with a 50-yard wedge shot on his final hole, which set up a 4-inch putt for birdie.
 
In 77 rounds as a collegian, Feinstein had broken par seven times. He had scored in the 60s three times. And his best 54-hole score to par was even.
 
Monday and Tuesday on CCV’s Tuckahoe Creek Course, he was in a different stratosphere. Nearly a week later, he’s still processing it.
 
“It’s really an emotion I don’t think words can adequately describe,” said Feinstein, who is in the MBA program in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. “I hadn’t won what I would consider a real tournament since I was 14.
 
“I wrote it down as a goal coming into this year, but it was something that I honestly never expected to happen. I can’t stop smiling. I was texting one of my friends who plays professionally and I said, ‘This is why I came back for a fifth year.’ That feeling makes all the bad rounds, all the hours of practice, worth it.”
 
In 54 holes, Feinstein had 15 birdies and an eagle. He had only two bogeys, both of which came in his first round. He had never gone bogey-free in an 18-hole round before, but he did it the final 36 holes to win the trophy.
 
Why such an improvement? His coach, Tim Pemberton, believes improved wedge play was critical.
 
“He’s always been a great ball striker and he gives himself a lot of great opportunities for scoring,” Pemberton said. “But his wedge play from inside 100 yards, I felt like, that’s where he was losing some shots to the field.
 
“He worked on his wedges quite a bit this summer. And he was able to take advantage of the opportunities he gave himself.”
 
He did that. In 12 chances on a par-5 hole at CCV, Feinstein shot 8-under with six birdies and an eagle.
 
It would have been almost impossible to see coming. In four qualifying rounds leading up to the tournament, Feinstein was sixth on his team. He was striking the ball well but not producing low numbers. That changed with his practice round on Sunday.
 
“I hit it really well, which for me is usually not a good sign,” said Feinstein, who graduated with a B.B.A. as a double-major in finance and history. “I normally like to hit it OK in the practice round because I’ve got some demons.”
 
Yes, golfers can be a superstitious bunch. But in his first round Monday morning, starting on No. 9, Feinstein was 5-under after his first 10 holes. That included an eagle on 18. He cooled off a little but still had a very solid 3-under 69.
 
Then came the afternoon’s second round. Feinstein made seven birdies, including all four par-5s, for a 7-under 65. It was a career-best by three shots and tied the school record. And it put him in second place, one shot behind George Washington’s Jakub Hrinda.
 
On Tuesday, Feinstein started on No. 5. He parred his first four holes before making birdie on No. 9. Then six more pars, then birdies on Nos. 17, 18 and 1 to go 4-under for the day and 14-under for the tournament.
 
“That’s when I looked at the leaderboard for the first time,” Pemberton said. “That got him tied for the lead.”
 
Feinstein made nice par saves on 2 and 3 and remained tied with Hrinda going into his final hole. On No. 4, a dogleg right par-4, he hit his tee shot over the water to leave himself about 50 yards from the hole. Then came maybe the shot of his life.
 
With a 58-degree lob wedge, Feinstein nearly holed another eagle. Instead, he ended up four inches from the cup. He tapped in to finish 15-under.
 
Feinstein was unaware what Hrinda was up to, but he had an idea something had happened in his favor.
 
“Right after the wedge shot, I see my teammate, Logan (Hunter), in the background throw both of his hands up in the air,” Feinstein said. “I knew Logan had been checking, so it must have meant something.
 
“So I went over to ask Tim, and he said that put me in the lead by one and the other kid hadn’t finished his last hole.”
 
Hrinda bogeyed his final hole, and Feinstein became the Tribe’s first outright individual champion since Austin Morrison won the Invitational at Savanah Harbor in 2017.
 
“I couldn’t believe that had happened,” Feinstein said. “I just really wasn’t expecting it at the start of the day. I don’t know … when it’s your week, it’s your week.”
 
 


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Dave Johnson

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