WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — With four men in a deadlock for the lead on the 16th hole of the final round of the 100th West Virginia Amateur on the Meadows Course Friday at The Greenbrier, one was bound to be very happy by day’s end.
The other three were destined for the other end of the emotional spectrum.
It seemed like destiny that either Woody Woodward or Philip Reale would claim their first title after so many near misses in the past. Then, Cam Roam looked like a man of destiny after holing a 30-foot bomb on the 16th green to take a one-shot lead with two holes to play.
In the end, it was a 19-year-old golden child of the West Virginia Golf Association who furthered his legacy in state golf annals at a ripe young age.
Mason Williams claimed his seventh WVGA crown, his first State Amateur title and came from six shots behind to start the day to leave a final group filled with disappointment in his wake.
At 35 years old and now with five straight top-10 finishes in the event and a second runner-up finish, Reale had to be the most disappointed from a career standpoint.
His brother Anthony won the event in 2007, and this week his mother and father, wife Abby and 16-month-old daughter Eddison were all in attendance, poised to celebrate his long-awaited coronation as the top amateur player in the state.
And with the way he’s played over the last year or two, that climb may very well come – and soon. But, it will have to wait at least another year.
“Happy to be right there again,” Reale said. “One of these days. I’m getting close, I just need to push it over the edge.”
He nearly did as a 20-foot, would-be-Amateur-winning birdie putt on the 72nd hole snaked millimeters wide, sending him into a three-way playoff with Williams and Woodward. Once there, Reale made three pars, a bit symbolic of his round of even-par 70 — it was good, just not quite good enough.
He admitted that while drawing positives from being that close, it made the sting a little worse.
“It’s a little bittersweet,” Reale said. “I can’t complain with how I played. Most years that’s good enough to win, this year it wasn’t. The play is getting a little better, the guys are getting younger, they’re hitting it further, so it’s getting a little harder to keep up. Hopefully I’ve got a little juice in the tank and can get one before it’s too late.”
Woodward tied for second in 2013 and came painfully close in 2014, pushing Brian Anania down the back nine until an errant tee shot on the 13th hole was his undoing. He faded to finish third.
This week was Woodward’s first tournament back after regaining amateur status this past weekend. Now at age 25 and after two wrist surgeries derailed his pro pursuits, it was mostly positives for Woodward in the wake of another near-miss.
“A lot of positive ones,” Woodward said. “I haven’t played a lot and just to play well and get in the hunt was awesome this week. Obviously there’s some things you want back but overall, to hit it the way I did the last nine holes, I gave myself plenty of birdie looks. If I can convert a few of those it could’ve been a different story.”
While those two seemed to have a date with destiny, Roam was supposed to be a nice player joining them in the final group, hoping to hold on to third place.
But Roam showed early he had no intention of accepting that role, getting to 4 under par on the day by hole 13 to shove his way into the hunt.
A former Spring Valley football player who didn’t pick up competitive golf until after high school, Roam showed moxie all week, and no one hit more clutch shots than he did on 15 and 16 to grab the lead with just two holes left.
Golf is a cruel game, and a double bogey on the 18th to fall not only out of the lead but also out of the playoff was one of the most bitter endings imaginable.
As spectators and the three remaining combatants scrambled to get to the 16th hole for the first playoff tee shots, Roam stood alone, looking over the 18th green. He’d later go back to the spot from where he hit his approach, which bounded over the green and, by and large, pried the Greenbrier Trophy from his hands.
“I’m probably not going to get over this one,” Roam said. “Being the 100th and at one point being down eight strokes and having to man up then and coming to this last hole — it just hurts. I always wondered what it would be like to be in this position, having the lead. I’ve dreamed of it. I’ve been in a lot of tough situations in my life with pressure and I never thought it bothered me. There weren’t any nerves really, I was so focused and locked in.”
Sometimes, losing is the lesson that leads to wins. Steve Fox led by two strokes and shot a 68 on the final day in 1987 only to see his brother-in-law Harold Payne shoot 65 and beat him. Fox went on to win his first West Virginia Amateur the very next year.
Any of those three — Reale, Woodward, Roam — could win the tournament a year from now, and it would be surprising if they’re not factors. That’s especially true for Woodward and Roam, both 25 years old, and there figures to be plenty more good years for Reale as well.
But for now, there will be days of reflection, questioning and continued dreaming.
“It hurts to lose that way because it appears it’s a choke and it’s the furthest thing from it,” Roam said. “I can’t even believe it. It doesn’t seem real.”