July 24, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Brian Anania’s golf game is long off the tee, and he really needed to go the distance this time.
Anania heads toward his junior year at Marshall University and next week’s West Virginia Amateur with a berth into the 2012 U.S. Amateur in his bag. Getting into the exclusive field next month at Cherry Hills (Colo.) Country Club was nerve-wracking as well as -- it seems -- mind-numbing.
After 36 holes Monday over which Anania went for a 6-under-par 138 at Williams Country Club in Weirton, the Hurricane native needed 11 playoff holes before finally closing out Pittsburgh’s David Brown for the second and last spot available in a 41-player U.S. Amateur qualifier.
“We played 36, and then we just kept going back and forth between 1 and 18 for the playoff,” Anania said Tuesday. “You lose track of how many holes you played after a while; you just keep playing.
“The playoff was all pars until I made a birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 396 yards), about a 15-foot putt.”
Anania finished one shot behind qualifier medalist (and former pro) Rick Stimmel of Pittsburgh over the 6,627-yard Weirton course. But it was better than 2010, when Anania finished second in a U.S. Amateur qualifier at Sleepy Hollow in his hometown. There was only one amateur berth available at that one, and his then-future Thundering Herd teammate, Christian Brand of Charleston, won it.
Anania, 20, has had a title-filled career, but asked if qualifying for the U.S. Amateur was his biggest golf accomplishment to date, he said, “Probably … well, yes. I mean, I won some titles in state juniors, but this is the national Amateur, and that’s pretty big.”
Anania, who finished seventh in the West Virginia Open next month, added to a big summer so far for Herd-connected golfers as the program’s reins are handed over to new Coach Matt Grobe after a 40-year run by just-retired Joe Feaganes.
Teammate Nathan Kerns of Ironton has won the Ohio Amateur Championship and Mid-Ohio Invitational, and Marshall alumnus Jonathan Clark won the West Virginia Open. Earlier this month, Anania won the Dave Boyer Invitational at Sugarwood Golf Club in Lavalette.
Anania’s Marshall teammate, sophomore Jake Miller, will try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur next Monday at Winding Hollow in New Albany, Ohio.
“I thought it was amazing Brian had to play 47 holes to just get into the U.S. Amateur,” Grobe said Tuesday. “I think it’s really impressive after all of that golf, he could still birdie the 11th hole of a playoff … A three-hole playoff is really draining. I can’t imagine going 11 with that on the line.”
The U.S. Amateur is the nation’s oldest golf tournament, dating to 1895. It is one day older than the U.S. Open. The names of past winners is impressive – Bobby Jones (five times), Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lanny Wadkins, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods (three in a row).
Huntington’s William Campbell – he recently had a Herd golf scholarship named in his honor -- won the 1964 crown at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland … four years before Feaganes made the field at Scioto Country Club in Columbus, Ohio.
The 112th version from Aug. 13-19 will be played over two Colorado courses – the par-71 Cherry Hills Country Club and par-70 CommonGround Golf Course. Both will play at more than 7,350 yards.
Amateur qualifying began with 6,443 entries nationally. The Cherry Hills field will be made up of 312 players. They will play two qualifying rounds at stroke play, and the field will then be cut to the low 64 for match play.
This was Anania’s third attempt at making the U.S. Amateur field. Besides the near-miss at his home club in 2010, he “didn’t play too well” last year at Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport. He will become the 28th Herd golfer or Marshall alumnus to play in the U.S. Amateur. Pat Carter, the MU volunteer assistant coach, has made 13 appearances, including last year. Brand’s 2010 trip was the last for a Herd player with remaining eligibility.
Anania, who has won WVGA Junior Amateur and Junior Match play titles and was the 2009 high school State tournament medalist in leading Hurricane to a Class AAA team title, said he likes his game as he heads toward The Greenbrier next week and then on to Cherry Hills.
“I’ve been playing pretty well the last couple of weeks,” Anania said, “so I’m looking forward to the State Amateur. I do feel like my game is suited to those (U.S. Amateur) courses. The best part of my game, I think, is driving, and I have decent length off the tee.
“The type of courses I like are the ones where you have to hit a lot of drivers off the tee. I like the way I’m hitting the ball now.”