DANIELS — If Christian Brand thought winning his first West Virginia Open was tough, he’s also getting a lesson on the school of hard knocks at the professional level.
The former Capital High School and Marshall standout finally broke through, capturing the 81st West Virginia Open, his first, with a spectacular 6-under 66 Friday to win by three strokes over defending and seven-time champion David Bradshaw on the par-72 Cobb Course in Glade Springs.
Brand is in his second full year as a pro on the Web.com Tour with seven starts this year.
“It’s definitely an adjustment period,’’ he said of the pro life. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable, but it’s tough for me to get starts but it’s good. It’s a stepping stone to where I want to be.’’
Brand said the experience on the Web.com Tour has opened his eyes.
“It’s a learning curve,’’ he said. “Unless you’re a complete All-American thoroughbred you just don’t go out there and tear it up. That’s what I had to realize.
“People thought I was just going to take off like a wildfire. Slowly but surely I will. I’ve had to be patient and I’ve learned a lot. It’s been really good for my game. I’m learning deficiencies and that’s the only way to get better.’’
Brand made the cut and tied for 46th at the Nova Scotia Open on July 6 and was 1 under despite missing the cut at the Utah Championship on July 13.
Brand said the number of events in which a golfer gets to compete is directly related to how successful he is.
“You get a number by your status and how much money you’ve made,’’ he explained. “Then they reshuffle it about every four events. I’m down the money list so it’s tough for me to get starts.
“It’s a vicious cycle, really. You haven’t made money so you can’t get starts and if you can’t get starts how do you make money? So it’s tough, but it’s been really good. I’m getting to see a lot of the world.’’
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Will Evans came into his third Open the leader after the first two rounds, but that quickly changed after the first three holes of Friday’s final round.
Evans, a former George Washington High standout and sophomore-to-be at Marshall, was at 4 over on the day after a bogey and a triple bogey on two of his first three holes. He shot a 6-under 66 during Thursday’s second round with two eagles.
“I had a great group,’’ said Evans of playing partners Brand and Craig Berner. “I knew both those guys really well. I was really comfortable. Christian knew what to say. He kept me calm the whole time. It was really nice playing beside him.’’
“I’ve been through that and we rode around in the cart today and I tried to keep his head up,’’ added Brand. “It’s just growing pains. This is what you have to do to get better. You get in the final group and you have to learn. It was a great finish he made on 18 [with a birdie].’’
Evans, who shot 70, 66 and 74 the past three days against pros and amateurs, said the experience will pay off when his college season starts soon.
“It’s a huge confidence booster,’’ he said. “I just showed that I can play. It’s been a pretty slow progressing year for me. The past three weeks I’ve been finally able to string together some rounds. It feels really good heading into the college season.’’
Next year the Open returns to Berry Hills Country Club in Charleston, where Evans’ father Barry is the pro. Will Evans was Barry Evans’ caddy when Barry won his only Open title in 2008.
“I’m really excited for that,’’ beamed Will Evans. “The last time it was there I caddied for my dad and he won. It’ll be really fun to head back there.’’
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Scott Davis really turned back the hands of time Friday.
The former Edgewood Country Club pro who resides in Hurricane turned in a hole-in-one on the 247-yard par-3 third hole. Davis, a four-time Open titlist, finished tied for seventh with the second-lowest score of the last round at 5-under 67.
“I started out on one and hit it nice and close [for par],’’ said Davis, who recorded his 14th hole-in-one. “Then on two I hit a nice shot in there about 15 feet and missed it [then made par]. Then we get up on three and it’s 247 into the wind.
“I hit 3-wood and choked it down about an inch [and] hit a cut shot. I hit it right down the left side and it hit right up in the middle of the green, bounced straight and started rolling. I couldn’t see it. I knew it was a great shot and the guys on the tee said it went in so that was exciting as heck.’’
Davis carded six straight birdies in Wednesday’s opening round and was just one stroke off the lead at 3-under 69. He clubbed a 4-over 76 in the second round.
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Brian Anania capped off a special summer with an 11th-place finish at the Open.
The former Hurricane High and Marshall golfer won his first West Virginia Amateur in June, which earned him an exemption into the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic.
Anania closed out the Open with his best round of the 54-hole event, a 3-under 69. He shot a 72 and a 73 in the first two rounds.
“This is the last one for the year,’’ he said of his West Virginia Golf Association schedule. “I took a job earlier this week with FootJoy so I’ll be moving up to Fairhaven, Massachusetts, here in a couple of weeks or so. Hopefully I’ll get to keep playing a little bit and make it back for the Amateur next year.”
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.