WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — After a tough day on the Meadows Course, many golfers were looking forward to Wednesday’s second round at the 95th West Virginia Amateur with the venue changing to the Old White TPC.
But thanks to gusty winds and a slight difference in green speeds from the Meadows, The Greenbrier resort’s most famous course was far from in a giving mood.
As the day wore on, it became a game of losing the least amount of ground possible as only one player finished under par for the round.
That player was Huntington’s Josh Holmes who registered a 1-under-par 69 to go with a 2-over 72 on Tuesday to become the surprising leader halfway through the event at 1-over for the tournament.
The field was cut to the top 40, including ties, and those 40 players will return to the Meadows Course today for round three before returning to Old White TPC for Friday’s final round.
Holmes, a former Marshall golfer who currently works at Sugarwood Golf Club in Lavalette, is playing in just his third amateur, having missed the cut in 2010 and finishing 35th in 2012.
But he kept afloat on Wednesday while virtually everyone else sank and is in prime position heading into moving day today.
“I really can’t say I had one shot that hurt me,” Holmes said. “I hit a lot of shots close. I hit it very well with my irons. I wasn’t out of place off the tee, I hit some good iron shots and made tap-ins for birdie.”
The 20-year-old may not be experienced in being at the top of the leaderboard in the Amateur, but he said he is looking forward to going back to the Meadows course today.
“I like the Meadows,” Holmes said. “If I hit it [Thursday] as well as I did today, I can’t complain. I need to make some putts. I didn’t make anything [Tuesday]. I had one birdie from inside a foot and that was it.
“We will see what tomorrow brings. It’s definitely a grind. I’ll go home, rest tonight, come back tomorrow, and see what we’ve got.”
Holmes was in the sixth-from-last grouping on Wednesday, but will be in the final pairing today.
Speaking of the final pairing, the day was a grind for Woody Woodward, Harry Howell and Thadd Obecny II, the three that made up the final group on Wednesday.
Woodward was actually still leading by one heading into No. 18, but hit his tee shot into thick rough, chunked a chip shot, and settled for double bogey to finish at 5-over 75 for his round and 2-over for the tournament.
The Wake Forest golfer echoed statements made by several other players, saying the greens cost him dearly on Wednesday.
“It was just tough out there today,” Woodward said. “We saw some pins out there today that we hadn’t seen yet. It was a little harder to read, the green speeds were a little bit different from the other course and I struggled with that a little bit today. I played pretty much the same golf I did yesterday, I just made a few more putts. I couldn’t really get it to go in today but all-in-all I can’t really complain with where I’m at on the leaderboard.”
Obecny II and Howell also scrambled well enough to stay in the thick of things, shooting matching 74s on Wednesday, leaving Howell tied for second with Woodward and Obecny II a shot back and in sole possession of fourth.
Howell, in particular, had several big par saves, including on No. 5 and No. 18.
That was in part thanks to his putter, which actually bailed him out on a day it hurt so many others.
“I made a lot of between 7- and 10-foot putts,” Howell said. “I didn’t putt that well yesterday, but I hit 17 greens and then today I scrambled around.”
The day was even tougher on returning champion Sam O’Dell and 13-time champ Pat Carter.
Both shot 6-over-par 76s, leaving Carter at 7-over for the tournament and in a tie for 18th with O’Dell sitting at 9-over in a tie for 23rd.
It’s hard to imagine, with as much success as Carter has had in the event, that he’s ever had a case of the yips while putting.
But he said it’s something he’s dealt with his whole life and over the first two rounds, they have gotten the better of him as he made four three-putts on Wednesday alone.
“I’m at 147 and should be seven shots better,” Carter said. “I can’t kick them in. In two days I’ve not made a putt.
“I’m so nervy on the greens ... I know my stroke is good, it’s been good my whole life, that’s not the part. The part is being able to control the shaking of my hands. I don’t necessarily flinch at the ball, but it’s still close. I’ve battled them my whole life, but I’ve been able to keep them under control. We’ll see, I’ll grind through it.”
O’Dell meanwhile, said his game in general hasn’t been quite right so far this week.
Both he and Carter know they’ll have to go low today to add to their trophy cases.
“I struggled all day, I just did not hit the ball well,” O’Dell said. “I’ve got to shoot real low. You’ve got to think you can do it. I think you’ve probably got to get to under par.”
Philip Reale II had the day’s only other even or better round and is now in a five-way tie for fifth along with Brian Anania, Jeremy Rogers, Nick Dent and Michael Mays.
n The scoring average for Wednesday was 77.848 after 77.080 on Tuesday.
n Charleston’s Will Evans had the third-best round of the day with a 1-over 71. He is in a tie for 10th with Tad Tomblin, Harold Payne, Evan Muscari, Michael Veres and Joey Seabright.
For results and today’s tee times, see Page 2B.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt