Doug Smock: A.W. Hamilton’s ascension, Thomas Frazier and the US Open

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Justin Thomas and his Pepto-Bismol slacks have not yet committed to play at the upcoming Greenbrier Classic, but he could possibly be the highest-ranked player in the field if he does.

Seeing colleague Mitch Vingle map out Don Nehlen’s coaching tree got me to thinking about A.W. Hamilton’s ascension to his first full-time Division I basketball job.

Earlier this month, the former Marshall point guard joined the staff of Kevin Keatts at North Carolina State. Keatts is in his first year in Raleigh after going 72-28 in three seasons at North Carolina-Wilmington.

As you may know, Hamilton played for Keatts at Hargrave Military Academy for a postgraduate season before heading to Wake Forest. Hamilton later transferred to Marshall and played for coach Greg White, then Ron Jirsa.

I recall White’s strategy of continuing to recruit a player or two the Thundering Herd had no chance of landing, just in case that player considered a change of course. Hamilton was a successful example.

Keatts coached on White’s bench for two years before running the Hargrave talent machine. Hamilton coached for Keatts before taking over for six seasons. In the 2015-16 season, Hamilton’s Tigers went 47-1, winning the national prep-school national championship and landing NCAA scholarships for all 16 players.

Those two have solidified a branch of White’s coaching tree, which already boasts Wichita State icon Gregg Marshall, West Virginia State’s Bryan Poore, West Florida’s Jeff Burkhamer and Stony Brook’s Jeff Boals.

Burkhamer deserves a special mention, as he took the Division II Argonauts of Pensacola from seven wins to 20-9 this past season. Boals’ squad finished 18-14, reaching the College Basketball Invitational.

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Thanks to Thomas Frazier, I can make a seamless transition from Marshall sports to golf.

As I covered the West Virginia Amateur last week, that name was under my radar until I listed the top 15 and ties, those who won exemptions into this summer’s West Virginia Open and the 2018 State Am.

Frazier, who began his college career at Concord, just finished his sophomore season at Marshall and emerged as one of the team’s top players in the spring.

He started all five of the Herd’s spring tournaments, finishing as high as fourth.

“He played at Concord for a year, played really good down there, was their No. 1 player,” said MU coach Matt Grobe. “He came to me after that year at Concord, left Concord and enrolled at Marshall and said, ‘I don’t know if you’ve got a spot, but I’d like to play for your team.

“At the time, our numbers were too much and we really didn’t have room for him. He basically sat last year, and this year we went through the fall and our numbers were still kind of high, but after fall I decided I was going to redshirt some kids, so I had some room.

“So really, what I did was bring him in in the spring and he came to be part of the team, thinking that this year he had two years left, and that one semester he practiced with us … he shot himself right into the lineup.”

Frazier, a Huntington High grad, has played in several State Ams, finishing 18th in 2015. He won medalist honors in the qualifier at Sleepy Hollow, a feat he won’t repeat next year.

He doesn’t have to.

“I think it was one of those things where Thomas, maybe he had the ability, and just didn’t have a chance to play in a lot of tournament golf,” Grobe said.

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Father’s Day was a success because I received the few things I want: (a) a silly shirt, (b) a good dinner and (c) the ability to watch the U.S. Open in peace.

It was great to see Justin Thomas on the leaderboard, shooting that 63 in his Pepto-Bismol slacks on Saturday. (Man, were they pink!) Back at the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, he led on the front nine before collapsing on the back.

He left that tournament 99th in the world. He entered this U.S. Open 13th, thanks to four wins and 15 top-10s in that two-year stretch.

Having also played here in 2012 as an amateur, I’ll put the Kentucky native on my short wish list for the return of the Classic, which reopens the Old White TPC July 3-9. Should he commit, I’d say he would be the field’s highest-ranked player.

Unless the Classic finally lands No. 3 Jason Day. A long shot, but he did enter the 2014 Classic and appeared at its media day, but withdrew because of a nagging thumb injury. As long as he lives in the Columbus area, tournament officials should pursue him.

As for the characters of the game, the Classic has a much better shot at Andrew “Beef” Johnston. The bearded Englishman burst onto the scene last year by winning the Spanish Open and breaking into the top 10 at the British Open.

It’s usually tough for the Classic to land a European because of the place on the schedule and “Beef” is already exempt into the Open, but he’s also a PGA Tour rookie and has to pedal hard to hang onto his card. I expect him in White Sulphur Springs.

I don’t know where to start with this guy, but I’ll keep it relatively tame. At the PGA Championship, the Wall Street Journal took him on a tour of Manhattan burger joints and asked him to rate them. He signs autographs “Beef,” with a smiley face.

He told Golf Digest last September: “The kinds of golfers I like to hang out with are the ones who can spend a night at the pub conversing almost entirely in lines from ‘Caddyshack.’”

And finally, this note: He earned his PGA Tour card on National Cheeseburger Day. (Sept. 18, if you’re curious.)

Give me a threesome of Johnston, Andres Gonzales and John Daly, and I’ll follow them for at least nine holes.

Contact Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @dougsmock and read his blog at http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/dougsmock/.

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