WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The soft, silent plop of the dimpled ball on the 18th green was the loudest statement Brian Anania could make Thursday at the 95th West Virginia Amateur.
Anania’s final approach shot hit the green almost as if he tossed it, and crawled to within three inches of the hole. When he made that tap-in, he finished with a 3-under-par 67 for the third round, contested on The Greenbrier’s Meadows course.
The resulting three-round total of 1-over 211 didn’t just stand up as the lead. It gave the Hurricane native and recent Marshall graduate a two-stroke cushion over Bridgeport’s Woody Woodward.
“I was all round it, 15 or 20 feet, kept running it all around the edges, couldn’t get anything to drop,” Anania said. “And then I finally hit one close on 18 to where I could handle it.”
There were three 67s, two 68s and a 69 on a day in which the usual contenders climbed up the leaderboard and a few intruders retreated.
Consider Woodward’s situation. The rising Wake Forest sophomore entered the day one stroke out of the lead and fell back just one stroke — but not to the others in his three-man group. He sits alone in second at 213.
Thirty-six hole leader Josh Holmes of Huntington shot out of contention with a 78 and Harry Howell, the Madison native playing at the University of Charleston, threw up a 79.
“Went par, four-putt, double bogey. Just never got it going to the back side,” Howell said. “Had too many big [scores]. Ran over my ball in the rough, got a one-stroke penalty for that. Just not a good day.”
The other 67s came from Anania’s fellow Sleepy Hollow members, Sam O’Dell and Chris Williams. Both went from eight to five shots out entering today’s final round, played at the Old White TPC. Will Evans and Thadd Obecny II are tied with that duo at 216.
Pat Carter, that 13-time State Am champ, fired a 68 to get within four shots at 215, as did Fairmont State golfer and one-time runner-up Jess Ferrell. The 69 came from Evan Muscari, which puts him alone in fourth at 214, three shots back.
The recipe for the most successful players Thursday seemed to share a simple, common trait: Keep drives in the fairway, hit all the greens and see if you can read a putt or two.
“Seventeen greens [in regulation],” said Muscari, the Pineville resident. “I hit it good; my proximity to the hole was really bad, I probably averaged about 30 or 40 feet. But I only had one three-putt, my touch was pretty good all day.
“Less than 10 bogeys in three rounds up here, I’ll take it.”
A lot of players were reading the greens better, it seems. Perhaps they were aggressive, some knowing they have little to lose — for instance, Carter figured he needed a 136 on the final 36 holes, now necessitating a 68 today on Old White. Nobody shot lower than 69 in the second round Wednesday on the PGA Tour site.
“It’s a lot to ask,” Carter said. “But all you’ve got to do is hit your golf ball and hit a few putts and it’s out there, if you can do it. The greens are receptive.
“I know the Old White will play longer tomorrow, but I’m excited. I’m glad to at least shoot myself back into contention.”
When Anania and the rest of the field play Old White, they will see the Greenbrier Classic grandstands one day closer to completion for the June 30-July 6 tournament. Once again, the winner receives a place in the 156-man field.
The confidence flowed after the third round, as one might expect. Woodward remembers how he shot a final-round 67 last year (though O’Dell dominated so thoroughly, he shot a 76 and won by six). Anania shot the day’s second-lowest round, a 70.
“Just kind of remember that nobody is running away with it,” Woodward said. “You just keep your head in it, the way we all can play. All I want is a chance coming down the last nine, and if I can get there I like the odds.”
BRIEFLY: With six under-par rounds and one even-par 70, the stroke average was 74.325 among the 40 players who made the 36-hole cut. That was down from the 77.08 compiled by the 100-man field. The full field averaged 77.848 Wednesday at Old White, which is also par-70.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.