WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Brian Anania survived the 13th hole Friday at The Greenbrier’s venerable Old White course, a hole that seems to have an anti-Wake Forest bias.
When Woody Woodward, the rising sophomore player for the Demon Deacons, yanked his drive into the left hazard on the difficult par-4, that ended the suspense at the 95th West Virginia Amateur.
Woodward suffered a double bogey, Anania took a three-shot lead and wasn’t about to give it up — not with his machine-like consistency that resulted in an even-par 70.
That resulted in a 1-over-par 281 for the tournament, giving the Hurricane High and Marshall graduate his first Amateur title. It also made him the youngest State Am winner since Pat Carter took his first of 13 titles as a 21-year-old in 1989.
Anania also wins a berth in the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, June 30-July 6.
“That hasn’t even set in yet, but I’m excited for it,” he said.
Evan Muscari, a Pineville resident and recent Concord graduate, was second at 283. Woodward dropped to third, four shots out, with a 285.
Woodward, a Bridgeport native, chipped in from 25 feet on the fifth hole, saved pars on No. 6 and No. 7, and took a one-shot lead with a birdie on the eighth. He bogeyed No. 9 to fall back into a tie with Anania.
After he finished the third round Thursday two shots out, Woodward said liked his chances if he could in contention heading into the back nine Friday. That didn’t work out, as Anania kept his even-par efficiency down the stretch and Woodward melted down on that 13th hole.
Anania birdied the par-5 12th to take a one-shot lead into the 13th. It played at 444 yards, a bit shorter than the pros face, but there still is Howard’s Creek on the left and out of bounds on the right and not much fairway in between.
Woodward pulled the ball into trees lining the creek, suffered a penalty stroke and later chunked a chip at the edge of the green. He couldn’t save bogey and fell behind by three shots.
The errant drive was reminiscent of Webb Simpson’s creek shot in the final round 2012 Greenbrier Classic. Simpson also made double bogey, losing his lead and starting a downward spiral.
And yes, Simpson is a Wake Forest alum, one of several on the PGA Tour.
Woodward didn’t really care about that connection, but did care about several of his drives going left and staying in that direction. In his style of play, that ball usually arcs into the fairway.
“It just wasn’t fading for me today with my driver,” he said. “I started them all pretty good — even that one on 13, I didn’t hit a bad drive. I wasn’t angry with it. I hit it really straight. When you close the [club] face like that, it tends to go 15, 20 yards farther, and that’s what I did. Flew it dead middle of that hazard.”
Muscari was never out of it, as he was one of only two players to break par for the final round. But with Anania keeping his drives in the fairway and hitting greens in regulation down the stretch, his 1-over scored on the final eight holes couldn’t tie it.
When Muscari’s chip from the collection area behind the 17th hole came a half-inch from dropping in the hole, that sealed his chances. He knew it, too, as he swung his club in disgust.
“I lost by two and had two three-putts today,” he said. “But it shows me I could play, that my swing changes are coming along. They stood up in the pressure; I hit some good shots that were either carried in the wind or knocked down by the wind and hit the wrong [distance] numbers.”
Anania started shaky, needing a sand save to par the first hole and bogeying the third and fifth. He was in deep trouble in a greenside bunker on No. 7, but blasted out to within 2 feet to save par.
“I think my par save on 7 was very key in keeping me in the game,” he said. “Hitting it there, it could have been a big number. I hit that, I hit a good one on 8 and birdied 9. And that got me back in it, and I just wanted to play solid from there.
“I missed the first [fairway], and that may have been the only one. I hit it very good off the tee today and I hit a lot of greens. The ones I missed, I was able to save myself, for the most part.”
He made a three-putt bogey on the 14th, but parred the final four holes. With his father Geno serving as an excited caddy and his mother Dorie “a nervous wreck” walking the course, he was the calmest one in the family.
“I felt pretty comfortable,” he said. “Coming down [the par-5] 17, I decided to play it a three-shot hole and I watched them not clearing the bunker [off the tee]. Woody hits it a lot farther than I do. I played it a three-shot hole, made them catch me rather than me making mistakes.”
He made very few mistakes over 72 holes, and he will swing with the big boys in 2 ½ weeks.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.