John Rosenstock has been playing golf since age 7 and participating in Richmond Golf Association events since his preteen years.
Few rounds have been more rewarding than the RGA Amateur final on Sunday at Jefferson Lakeside Country Club where he scored a wire-to-wire 4-and-3 victory over fellow 33-year-old midamateur Ryan Bishop. Rosenstock, who secured his first RGA Amateur title, seized control of the match early and won a stretch of three consecutive holes on the second nine to help decide the outcome in the scheduled 18-hole final.
Rosenstock, a Midlothian native, relocated to Virginia Beach from 2014 to 2019 and returned to Richmond about a month ago. The commonwealth’s capital city has never looked so good.
“It’s a great, sentimental win because Richmond has always been home,” said Rosenstock, a member at Stonehenge Golf and Country Club in Midlothian who works in the insurance business. “To be City Am champion is a great feeling.”
The putter was a formidable ally for the always long-hitting Rosenstock. He made delicate putts inside 6 feet at Nos. 3 and 4, no small feat given that the undulating greens were slippery as polished marble, to build a two-hole lead. Rosenstock led by at least two the rest of the way.
How significant were those early made putts?
“So important,” Rosenstock said. “I didn’t want to let off the gas pedal. I told myself to keep swinging aggressively.”
Though Bishop made brief inroads by sinking a 12-foot birdie putt at the par-4 ninth hole to reduce his opponent’s lead to two holes, Rosenstock wouldn’t let him off the canvas. Rosenstock claimed the sloppily played, odd-in-unfolding 11th, glided to the hole as he watched his 12-footer for birdie disappear at the par-3 12th and won No. 13 with a par to go five holes up and dormie.
Bishop took the par-4 14th with a birdie, his third won hole of the encounter, but it was too late. The match finished one hole later. For all of Bishop’s heroics in the quarterfinals and semifinals where he captured both matches on the 18th hole, he never appeared to fully settle into the deciding encounter. But Bishop kept grinding as he bobbed and weaved his way out of some troublesome spots.
“I just couldn’t quite find it,” said Bishop, a Henrico resident who works as an auditor. “John played tough and didn’t leave me many opportunities. All the credit to John. He played well.”
Bishop continued, his eyes reddening, drained both physically and emotionally.
“Just a little frustrating that I didn’t give John the match he deserved,” he continued. “Both of us, being as friendly as we are, would like to have seen a little tighter match.”
Bishop joined Hermitage Country Club in 2016, worked on his game and is back on the competitive stage. Reaching the final in his first City Amateur is hardly a bad debut. The event is part-golf, part-endurance test; Rosenstock played 104 holes during the four-day event, while Bishop logged 98.
Rosenstock is basically an RGA lifer, partly because his father, Jack, first put a club in his son’s hands as a child. As he’s grown in the game, John has been so close to winning at a high level on the city and state stages, reaching the semifinals of the RGA Amateur in 2006 and was runner-up at the Virginia State Golf Association Amateur a year later. His dad has been with him through nearly every moment for the joys and heartaches.
After the match, John, victory elusive no longer, rode back to the clubhouse with his father in a golf cart prior to the event’s concluding trophy presentation. In the passenger seat, Rosenstock leaned over to his dad. His message?
“I told my dad that this is for you,” Rosenstock said, his voice cracking and uneven. “He’s been there every step of the way for a lot of close calls. Anybody that plays golf around the state knows my dad because he is always out there. I appreciate his support—my whole family’s.”
Final: 11. John Rosenstock d. 20. Ryan Bishop 4 and 3
Final: 16. Nicholas Taliaferro d. 6. Patrick Hineline 2 and 1
Final: 9. Daniel DuVal d. 3. Ernie Chamberlain 2 and 1