VIENNA - Ian Patrick didn't own a set of golf clubs until after high school.The Huntington resident is mainly self taught, picking up a few tips here and there from friends so much so that he finds himself tied for the opening-round lead at the 80th West Virginia Open.Patrick fired a 3-under 69 to tie with Bakerton pro David Bradshaw on the par-72, 6,927-yard Parkersburg Country Club course in Vienna.The 39-year-old Patrick, a 1991 graduate of Huntington East, began playing golf when he was 19 and attending Johnson Wells University in Charleston, S.C.
"My mom bought me a set of golf clubs to use while I was sitting around waiting,'' said Patrick, who worked at a local course.Patrick credits his friends for his improvement throughout the years. Patrick worked as a chef for 20 years before retiring last year to start a wine distributorship with a friend."Just my friends being really good and playing with them,'' he said. "Them giving me little tips, 'Hey, you're holding it wrong.' Never a lesson. Just playing around. I've gotten better every single year."The guys I play with are the ones up near the leader board. Just tired of getting beat by them, so I'd practice longer. I get to play some of the best courses in the state, playing on the West Virginia Golf Association [events]. We've played in some really great places with tough conditions.''Patrick, though, usually doesn't get too serious at tournaments."Just kind of have fun and see all of my friends,'' he said. "We're always gambling or doing something stupid, 'I can hit this shot closer than you for a dollar.'''Patrick finished 11th in last year's Open, his best finish."It's going to be awesome,'' he said of Wednesday's first-round success. "My grandmother is going to wake up tomorrow morning and read the newspaper and she's not going to know what to do. She's my biggest fan. She tells me my scores before I even shoot them sometimes. She's my best fan.''Keep up the good workThe Parkersburg Country Club course was inundated with about 11/2 inches of rain Tuesday that shut down scheduled practice rounds, but by Wednesday morning it was ready for play as the Mountain State's top pro and amateur golfers took their swings."The golf course is in great shape,'' said Bob Friend, the pro at Pikewood National Golf Club in Morgantown, who was tied for second at 2 under. "It's unfortunate that we got a deluge of rain [Tuesday] because it would have been a lot of fun to see the golf course get firm and fast. They've done a very nice job getting the golf course prepared.
"My hat is off to the golf course superintendent and his crew, especially with the washing out of basically every bunker on the golf course. I pulled in [Tuesday] about noon [and] 18 was more like a lake than a golf hole. I saw them out here last night [when] I came out to putt a little bit, out there doing the squeegee.''Friend said the PCC layout is one you don't see every day in West Virginia."It's a lot of fun to play, great green complexes,'' he said. "It's one of the golf courses you never get tired of playing. It's old school. It's not something you'd expect to see in West Virginia. It's flat, but it's a tremendous golf course, beautiful old trees.''Opening-round jittersAfter Pat Carter, the 13-time Amateur champion, withdrew from the Open Sunday, 16-year-old Austin Davis took his place among veterans Friend and Harold Payne of Hurricane.Friend was runner-up at the Open in 2011 and Payne is a four-time winner of the Open and a West Virginia Golf Association Hall of Fame inductee.
Davis, a sophomore at Parkersburg High School, shot an 8-over 80."He's a really, really nice kid,'' Friend said. "He has a lot of game. Nice young man. He's got a future ahead of him. Just like a lot of 16-year-old kids, he gets a little impatient every now and then just like everybody else. He needs to work on his short game just like all of us.''That old magicScott Davis recaptured some of his past glory with a 2-under 70 to tie for third."I felt really good for a senior golfer,'' smiled the 57-year-old who lives in Hurricane and is a four-time Open champ. "It's nice to be able to compete with these young players. Being at my age, it's fun.'' Davis turned in four birdies and two bogeys. He birdied two of the par 3s."I hit the ball real nice,'' he said. "I was conservative in the fairways. The ball wouldn't roll much, then the shots into the greens would hold really nice so I was hitting my iron shots close, but it played long and tough.''Davis is a former professional at Scarlet Oaks Country Club and Edgewood Country Club. Now he spends his time with family and competing in Tri-State PGA section events."I was in the business for 26 years and just decided to quit doing that and teach a little bit,'' he said. "I play competitive golf seven months. I still live in Hurricane and I take care of my boys, so that's fun.''BrieflyThis year's Open has a purse of $30,000, with $6,000 going to the winning pro and $750 to the winning amateur. ... The Parkersburg Country Club opened in 1902 and was the first incorporated in West Virginia. The golf course began with six holes and was enlarged to nine. An 18-hole course was built in 1922.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.