Putter lifts O'Dell to State Amateur lead

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Sam O'Dell's putter was red hot Monday.The Hurricane dentist dialed up some long-distance birdies to seize the opening-round lead with a 2-under-par 68 at the 94th West Virginia Amateur Monday on the par-70, 7,042-yard Old White TPC at The Greenbrier resort.Thadd Obecny II of Wheeling was in second at even-par 70 while Chris Barlament of Vienna, Jeremy Rogers of Buckhannon, who finished third last year, and Alan Cooke of Vienna were tied for third, three shots back.Jeff Harper of Parkersburg, Ryan Mumaw of Charles Town and Josh Boswell of Alderson were four shots off the lead and tied for sixth. Aaron Boggs of Madison, Jeff Bryant of St. Albans, Will Johnson of Charleston, Brian Anania of Hurricane, Philip Reale II of Charleston, Bosten Miller of Charleston, Harold Payne, a senior golfer from Hurricane who is a five-time winner, Woody Woodward of Bridgeport, who will be playing at Wake Forest in the fall, and Jess Ferrell of Fairmont, who tied for second in 2011, were among a dozen five shots back who were tied for ninth.Tim Fisher, who returned to the Amateur after serving two suspensions the last three years, disqualified himself after learning he played the wrong ball on the No. 12 hole after teeing off on No. 13. The Sandyville resident was just a couple of strokes off the lead when the infraction occurred.Ken Tackett, the executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association, said if a golfer catches the mistake before he tees off on the next hole, a two-stroke penalty is enforced and the player continues the round. Tackett said because Fisher teed off on the next hole before correcting the foul he had no choice but to disqualify himself.O'Dell rolled in seven birdies and his only mistakes were a double bogey on No. 2 and bogeys on No. 7, 11 and 15. He sank a 40-foot putt on the first hole for birdie and added a 30-foot putt and two from about 20 feet away."I got a lot out of that round,'' said O'Dell, who has never won the Amateur despite finishing in the top 10 seven times. "I putted pretty well. That's what usually gets me on that golf course."I got the speed of the greens really well. The greens are tough. I felt pretty confident to go ahead and give it a roll up there. I've kind of put myself behind the 8-ball it seems like [in years past] and have to do something spectacular the last couple of days. I'm happy with the start.''
O'Dell beat 13-time and defending Amateur champion Pat Carter in May's Mid-Amateur and finished as the low amateur with a second-place showing in June's West Virginia Open, which is a mix of professionals and amateurs. Carter withdrew from the Amateur after his son's Little League team advanced to this past weekend's Southeast Regional."I've had such a good year I have to be confident,'' O'Dell said. "I got some breaks today. I was on the top shelf of No. 1 and had 40 feet down the hill, breaking left. It's one you're just hoping and praying it's a two putt. It's right in the middle of the hole to start."My second shot on 12, the par 5, I kind of [hit] it left. I thought for sure I knocked it right in the creek. It barely carries the creek and I make birdie, but it looked like, 'Man, I might be six.'  Those are the things you have to happen during the week for you to come out on top.''Anania, a former Hurricane High School standout and current Marshall golfer, was in O'Dell's threesome and noticed how locked in O'Dell was during the round."He's swinging well and rolling the ball even better so he's going to be tough to beat,'' said Anania.Winston Canada, a former Oak Hill High School standout who played at Division I Campbellsville and was State Am runner-up last year, had a tough day and was 10 strokes behind at 78. 
Will Evans of Charleston, who is heading to Marshall to play golf, turned in a 74 while Buffalo's Cory Hoshor was at 76 and Chris Williams of Scott Depot, a Division I Coastal Carolina recruit, had a 77. Williams beat Hoshor to capture the West Virginia Junior Match Play championship on Sunday.Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkinson@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811. 
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