June 30, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – When Brian Anania tees it up with PGA Tour players later this week at the Greenbrier Classic, he’ll have 14 clubs in his bag, like everyone.
However, Anania – a recent Marshall graduate – will be armed more with something else than perhaps anyone else in the 156-player field.
That would be what you might call “local knowledge.”
Anania earned an exemption into the fifth Greenbrier Classic with a long-awaited title in the West Virginia Amateur earlier this month. He clinched that title on the same storied Old White TPC where the Classic opens Thursday at MU alumnus Jim Justice’s famed resort in White Sulphur Springs.
“Hopefully, playing on Old White will make a difference for me,” said Anania, who was a PING All-Region selection for the Herd as a 2013-14 senior. “I’ve been able to play in a lot of State Amateurs there. I played some junior golf there, too, and this spring at Marshall we won the (inaugural Greenbrier Collegiate) there.
“It’s going to play a little longer (about 400 yards, at 7,287) than it did for the (second and fourth rounds of the) Amateur, and it’s still a par 70. We’ll play a couple of back tees we didn’t play, and you’re going to have to hit it a little more firm in the fairways … It’s not going to be a major change for me though.
“The biggest thing is the greens are really tough to read, a lot of slow breaks. To me, that’s the biggest thing. But it is kind of crazy to think it’s my first PGA Tour event and we’ll be playing a course where I’ve played it a lot more than the other guys out there.”
Anania, of Hurricane, becomes the third Marshall golf team alumnus to play in the Greenbrier Classic in four years as the State Amateur champ. The previous two, Christian Brand (78-73 in 2011) and Pat Carter (75-73 in 2013) failed to make the 36-hole cut.
Anania shot 72 and 70 in his two State Amateur rounds on Old White. He won the title with a 1-over-par 281.
One of Anania’s goals on Old White is finishing what he starts.
“I want to go four rounds,” he said. “That’s hasn’t been done (by a West Virginia Amateur champ). That would be huge for me.”
He’s trying to not get too amped up about the opportunity, although the longtime Sleepy Hollow Golf Club player knows that being on the course with the two Watsons – Bubba and Tom – and other top players in the world like major champs Nick Faldo and Angel Cabrera will be anything but elementary.
“I was just focused on trying to win the (State) Amateur,” said Anania, who graduated in May from MU with a business degree and 3.91 grade point average. “I was in the top 10 there the last four times, and it felt nice to finally break through and win the title. I went to the Amateur trying to win that. Getting to play in the Greenbrier Classic, I never really thought like that before it happened.
“That’s just icing on the cake.”
When Anania, 22, won the 95th Amateur, he became the youngest titlist in 25 years, since Carter won at age 21 in 1989. He also added to a very impressive run for the Thundering Herd men’s golf program. Since 1976, 34 of the 39 State Amateur titles have been won by Marshall golfers or MU golf alumni, led by Carter’s 13 titles. The Herd program lists alums as winners of 22 of the last 24 State Amateur championships.
“That’s pretty wild,” said Anania, who won the Cincinnati-hosted Bearcat Invitational in Hebron, Ky., last October and led Coach Matt Grobe’s Herd to a school-record three team titles in the 2013-14 season. “I never even thought about it like that. It just goes to show what kind of program we’ve had at Marshall, and I was proud to be part of it.”
The Greenbrier Classic opportunity caps a big year for Anania, whose 72.48 stroke average ranks No. 2 for a single season in Marshall golf history. He was a Conference USA all-Academic selection and then got his degree, and before he won the State Amateur, he and teammate Chris Williams of Scott Depot won the WVGA Four-Ball Championship.
At the Greenbrier Classic, Sleepy hollow head pro Jimmy Harrison will caddy for Anania, and he figures to have a sizable following of family, friends and plenty of Marshall and Mountain State folks who will root for the local connection.
The one-time state high school titlist for Hurricane High and a 2012 U.S. Amateur participant appreciates every bit of what he’s accomplished, and what’s up next, too.
“It has been a special year,” Anania said. “It’s definitely been my best year on the golf course when you look at everything. And it’s an honor for me to play in the Greenbrier Classic. It’s going to be really different, playing before all those people on the course. It’s going to be a new experience for me.
“I want to play at a high level. I don’t have to do anything spectacular. I just need to go out and play sold, play consistently. And all I can do is go out and play my best and see what happens. I know if I play well – the way I can play – I’ll be playing Sunday.
“I know I can do that. There’s no doubt in my mind if I play well, I can do it.”