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by Matt Harvey
ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR
(June 9)It was sweet revenge, in a way, for the great majority of us known as the "golfing impaired."
Because when Pete Dye Golf Club got through with the 90 top amateurs in the state by about 7 p.m. Monday evening, Hawkeye and Trapper John would have been hard-pressed to stop the bleeding.
These guys who usually make regular golf look so darned graceful and easy were hitting balls into the water and the trees, dribbling them only a few feet from the rough, and then crossing all their fingers AND all their toes that the nice shots they hit to the greens would somehow keep from rolling off.
Welcome, gentlemen, to your worst nightmare, the world all us hackers never get out of in the first place.
"It's a humbling experience," said Hurricane's Marty Creed. "All 18 holes are tremendous. You can't let down. You just have to grind and grind and grind. Unfortunately, I let down one hole too soon."
Actually, the 79 posted by the 37-year-old claims adjuster was quite an accomplishment: It made him only one of 29 to break 80 and put him just 7 shots behind the first-round leader, three-time defending champion Pat Carter.
Pete Dye even had its claws sunk firmly into Carter, the potato chip route salesman who also won in 1989 and had blown away The Greenbrier resort courses in winning the past two years (10-under, 1996; 9-under, 1997).
But then Carter showed the skills that have him closing in on tying the record of four consecutive Amateur wins, sinking a 40-footer on No. 17 and a 35-footer on No. 18 to salvage an even-par 72.
Former Marshall golfer Carter led two current college golfers -- Lee University's Jeff Bostic and Central Florida's Jeff Whitman -- by a stroke.
"The whole course is playing tough," Carter said.
"It was windy, and there were gusts of wind. You never knew if the wind was behind you or in your face."
Some of the top players in West Virginia golf were among the first-round casualties: Five-time champ Harold Payne, 82; two-time champ Steve Fox, 84; 1997 runner-up Chris Curry, 83.
A year ago, in the first round at The Greenbrier's Old White course, only one golfer among those who finished in the top 40 shot over 79 (ironically, it was Pete Dye member Todd Condron, at 80). This year, only 29 golfers managed to break 80 for the first round, and 17 were at 15-over par or worse, including one at 28-over 100.
Whitman, son of DuPont High School football coach Dick Whitman, is off to his second straight solid start to the Amateur. A year ago, the junior-to-be would climb as high as third after the second round before faltering somewhat and finishing seventh.
He could have tied Carter for the lead if he hadn't three-putted the final hole for a bogey.
The round of 73 "has me in pretty good position," he said. "I would have like to have made that putt on 18, but that's over with now."
Bostic, who works in the golf bag room at The Greenbrier and is from Maxwelton near White Sulphur Springs, didn't make quite as many headlines as Whitman a year ago. But he was solid for three of the four rounds en route to a 13th-place finish.
"The greens are tougher here, that's for sure," he said. "But The Greenbrier's tighter."
Morgantown's Jack Forbes, a three-time Senior Amateur champion, was three strokes back at 75, while Dewey Delovich, a Monongah resident who tends bar in Harrison County, was among three at 76.
But perhaps the biggest threat to Carter after the first round was Logan's Michael Veres.
Veres had four solid rounds in tying for fifth last year and has played some of his best golf at the Amateur since he was in his mid-teens.
Veres, who finished the day at 75, transferred from Virginia Tech to Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College this year so he could play golf year round. The move has helped solidify his game, he said.
"I just felt like it was best for me -- if this is something I want to do for a living -- to play year round. ... I feel I've moved my game to a new level."
And for many of the rest of the field, Pete Dye has moved their game to a new level, too: The basement.