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Unless Jordan moves to state, Carter safe bet

(June 12) Huntington golfer Chris Curry had a chance to beat Pat Carter on the last day of the 1997 West Virginia Amateur. Curry lost by a record 15 strokes.

"Pat's like Michael Jordan," Curry said. "You never bet against him."

Chapmanville's Michael Veres was Carter's latest Amateur victim. He entered Thursday a stroke back at Pete Dye Golf Club, briefly took a one-stroke lead early in the round, and then lost by eight shots.

Carter now has won a record-tying four straight Amateurs, each time by an impressive margin.

"My hat's definitely off to Pat Carter," Veres said. "He played a phenomenal golf tournament."

A year from now, Carter will try for a fifth straight Amateur title, something not even 15-time winner Bill Campbell could accomplish (he's the other guy with four straight, from 1972 through 1975).

There will be pressure, to be sure.

"I don't think I've ever seen Pat quite as nervous as this year," said his wife, Kelli Carter. "I asked him after the second round, and he said he was nervous. I don't think it's ever going to stop until he loses one. You kind of dread the pressure, but then it's worth it when he can go and win. I'm proud of him."

Campbell says Carter is just the man to handle the assault on the record.

"I wouldn't expect it to have any effect on him. If anything, it would just stimulate him more. I don't think he gets very excited when he plays. ... He enjoys golf. It's a game to him. He plays well under pressure."

And Veres, who showed great iron play, including a 130-foot approach shot for a birdie in the final round, promises to return next year.

"I'm a much more aggressive player than Pat," Veres said. "I suppose it cost me some in the last round. But maybe it'll eventually pay off."

There's also Maxwelton's Jeff Bostic, a 19-year-old who struck some monstrous drives but struggled with consistency en route to a fourth-place finish. With a better game around the greens, he could be extremely dangerous.

And there's Cross Lanes insurance executive Bill Sharpe and Ripley High School senior-to-be Tim Fisher. Sharpe and Fisher, playing in their first Amateurs, finished seventh and third, respectively.

Who knows how much they can improve with this experience?

There's also the one intangible that even Carter acknowledged could be a huge hurdle: "I've been injury-free for a long time, knock on wood. A lot of guys have bad backs, or problems with their wrists or their elbows."

It's a long time between now and the 1999 Amateur, and a lot could happen.

But from where it stands now, I wouldn't bet against Carter winning his fifth straight.

Well, let me qualify that.

At least not unless Michael Jordan quits basketball and moves to West Virginia to play golf full time.