It is said that two is a coincidence and three is a trend.
If that’s the case, one of the two will be proven right this week at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.
The 102nd West Virginia Amateur is slated to begin on Sunday morning on the Meadows Course, kicking off the four-round, four-day, 72-hole tournament scheduled to conclude on Wednesday.
Young first-time winners have been crowned at each of the past two events — 19-year-old Mason Williams in 2019 and 20-year-old Alex Easthom in 2020 — with both ending with plenty of high drama. Williams survived a three-man, three-hole playoff two years ago while Easthom needed an up-and-down par on the 72nd hole to hold on by a single stroke over Williams and Chris Williams. Prior to the last two years, no West Virginia Amateur had been decided by a single shot since 2010.
Are those tight sprints to the finish a sign of the years to come? Are first-time winners set to become a theme?
“Yeah, I think so,” West Virginia Golf Association Executive Director Brad Ullman said. “It is exciting. It is exciting to see a lot of the younger players come up through our junior tour ranks and into the competitive atmosphere of the State Amateur.
“When there’s a playoff in our State Amateur, it’s not sudden death, it’s a three-hole aggregate, so that adds some more excitement. It’s definitely dramatic, and I would think this year, look for about the same.”
Opening it up even more is a couple of key absences, in particular Mason Williams, who is out with an injury, and four-time Amateur champion Sam O’Dell, who will miss the event due to a scheduling conflict with his son’s Little League season.
Pat Carter, a 13-time winner, will be a factor and is always a threat, even as a senior. He will open up his pursuit of a 14th win in the same group as Easthom. The two will be joined by West Virginia Junior Amateur champ Argyle Downes at 9:27 a.m. Monday.
Easthom will look to win his second straight title after grinding out crucial pars down the back nine of the final round last year with Chris Williams, Mason Williams and Carter all breathing down his neck. For Easthom, who has since won the individual medalist honors at the Mountain East Conference tournament for West Liberty, last year’s win — and, in particular, how he grinded and came up with clutch shots to do so — was pivotal in turning a corner in terms of confidence.
And confidence is just what he has entering this week.
“Sometimes when it comes to winning, once you get that under your belt it becomes easier in those close events,” Easthom said. “I’m excited to kind of see what comes with [being the defending champion] when you get there.”
Other past champions in the field include Brian Anania (2014) and Steve Fox (1988, 1994), who will make his 54th and final West Virginia Amateur appearance.
While the list of former winners in the field is short, the list of capable chasers is long.
Both Woody Woodward and Philip Reale were in the playoff that Mason Williams won in 2019. Cam Roam held a one-shot lead heading onto the 72nd hole that same year before a heartbreaking double bogey cost him the lead and a spot in the playoff. All three are in the field and figure to be factors.
Chris Williams has already claimed three WVGA championships this year, including the Mid-Amateur, and after years of close calls seems to be at the top of his form. Davey Jude has finally regained his amateur status after attempting to make his way on tour and will play, as will two-time West Virginia Open winner Jonathan Clark. Marshall’s Noah Mullens, Christian Boyd and Joseph Kalaskey and Charleston’s Mitch Hoffman have all played well in big WVGA tournaments as well.
There are also plenty of contenders in an even younger demographic, including Todd Duncan, who will begin his career at WVU next year after graduating from Shady Spring, and Nick Fleming, who made his way into the final group at the West Virginia Open this year after finishing his freshman season at Wingate. Fleming will share a group with Woodward and Chris Williams.
Even beyond that there are more capable players, and even without a couple of pre-tournament favorites, a nail-biting finish between several golfers looks pretty promising.
When pressed, Ullman couldn’t offer a prediction.
“One of 120 players,” Ullman said when asked to pick a winner. “It’s definitely going to be a packed leaderboard, and perhaps somebody walks away with the title for the first time.”