|Setup at Pete Dye right on
by Anthony Hanshew
BRIDGEPORT -- Hats off to those at the Pete Dye Golf Club and the West Virginia Golf Association.
Without question, the two could have conspired to make this week's West Virginia Open a forgettable event. Pete Dye's potential to humble golfers of any level is unparalleled in West Virginia.
If they had wanted to, Monday's opening round could have been a nightmare. Instead, with a reasonable, fair course setup and player-friendly conditions, it was a true test of golf.
The course measured 6,800 yards, where it could easily have been stretched to 7,100.
"The golf course, if you're hitting good shots, had a lot of opportunities at birdie," said Pete Dye assistant professional John Rappold, who shot a 74. "It could have been set up where nobody could break 75, but I don't think anybody wants to go through that."
WVGA Executive Director Danny Fisher agreed.
"First and foremost, we want to identify the best player in a tough setting," Fisher said. "But at the same time we want the players to enjoy themselves and not feel like they've been beaten up when they walk off."
Don't think, however, that Pete Dye was a breeze. Remember, this is all relative to Pete Dye; there were plenty of golfers residing in the 80s Monday. On holes where tee boxes were brought in, players could count on tougher pin placements and vice versa.
Fisher said players, who mostly raved about Monday's setup, can count on the course getting gradually longer and tougher over the next two days.
Chad Westfall, who one month ago graduated from Gilmer County High School, has enjoyed a successful summer on the Top Flight Tour. He recently knocked off top high school talents Scott George of Fayetteville and Don Jones of Wyoming East to capture a 17-18-year-old Top Flight title.
On Monday, he took it to another level. Betraying his youth with patient play that focused on the fairways and the middle of greens, regardless of where the pin waved, Westfall shot even-par 72, just four shots off the pace of co-leaders Brent Johnson and Jamie Whitt.
Westfall occasionally helps out in the Pete Dye clubhouse and makes the hour-trek from Glenville almost daily for a round.
"(Pete Dye), by far, is the best, from the course, to the practice facility to the people you work with," Westfall said.
Despite his immense course knowledge, Westfall admitted to opening round jitters. He credited friend John Monroe, a Glenville State College golfer who walked the course with Westfall, with calming his emotions.
"There were a couple of times with my nerves that I got stressed out," Westfall said. "He helped me a couple of times with things outside of my swing."
It's not unusual to see a strong contingent of Huntington golfers topping the leaderboards at statewide events, particularly at the West Virginia Amateur.
Many were par for the course on Monday.
Along with Whitt, who birdied three of his first four holes, Steve Fox shot 72 and six-time Amateur champion Pat Carter fired a 74.
At six shots back, Carter feels in contention.
"No question," Carter said. "A have a number I'm looking at and it's well within reason."
Also standing tall on Monday was the Pete Dye staff, which boasted four golfers within six shots of the lead.
Assistant pros Al Hromulak and Steven Schrawder each shot 73 and head professional Jim Bergan and Rappold each carded 74s.
Sports editor Anthony Hanshew can be reached at 626-1444.