BRIDGEPORT — To say Mason Williams felt right at home in the first round of the 88th West Virginia Open would be a bit of an understatement.
After all, as he teed off on his first hole — the 10th — in Wednesday’s first round, Williams could see his house just off the fairway when he started play at Pete Dye Golf Club.
“My parents built the house just right of hole No. 10, so I’ve lived here all my life,” Williams said. “I hit the tee shot, then looked over and waved at my mom and dad out on the porch, then went on with my round.”
It was a special day not only for Williams but also the entire West Virginia golf circuit as the State Open returned to Pete Dye Golf Club for the first time since 2000.
To put it in perspective, Williams was barely born the last time the tournament graced the grounds, with the late Brad Westfall winning in 2000.
“I was literally born in 2000,” the 21-year-old Bridgeport native said. “I was just a couple months old.”
Williams added that those in the area are excited to have the tournament return for the first time in 21 years, which adds a flavor to the week’s excitement.
“I know the golf course and members are very excited to have it back and, as a player, I’m very excited to have it here, too,” Williams said.
That down-home feeling and familiarity stayed with Williams throughout the day as he fired a 1-under 71 to be co-leader after the first round of the 88th West Virginia Open along with Nick Fleming.
Those two golfers were the only two to break par in Wednesday’s opening round, although there are several usual contenders within striking distance.
Christian Boyd and 11-time Open champion David Bradshaw are each one stroke back while defending champ Kenny Hess joins Noah Mullens and Sam Berry just two strokes behind.
In all, there are 16 players within four strokes of the lead, including Thadd Obecny, Jonathan Clark and Pat Carter at 2 over and Davey Jude and Chris Williams at 3 over.
Mason Williams, who won the 100th West Virginia Amateur in 2019, said that he and playing partner Cam Roam (+6) spoke about the course and what players will face during their round on Wednesday.
“We were talking about the difference between a challenging golf course and a hard golf course,” Williams said. “I think this is the perfect challenging golf course. If you hit bad shots, you’re going to make big scores, but if you hit good shots, you’ll have opportunities to make birdies.”
Roam had a pair of holes trip him up on Wednesday with triple-bogeys on Nos. 6 and 18. Those two holes cost him six strokes, which loomed large with him now seven back of the leaders.
While Williams was pleased with his round, he said there’s still plenty of work to do if he wants to claim a title on his home course and walk the trophy to his home on No. 10.
“It’s nice to get out there and shoot a good number,” Williams said. “I go off at, I think, 1:40 p.m. tomorrow, so I’ve got a lot of time to think about things. It’s a cool situation to be in, though. I’m just trying to embrace it as best I can. You can only get this opportunity so many times.”