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by John G. Miller
(June 12)The first West Virginia Amateur held at the Pete Dye Golf Club was great for the game, according to West Virginia Golf Association President Harold Payne.
This year's tournament drew a record number of golfers attempting to qualify, a record field of 90 qualifiers for the four-day event and an unofficial record crowd (crowd counts have never been kept since past events never drew enough to warrant them).
"It's been a tremendous experience," Payne said during Thursday's rain delay. "It's awesome ... just great for golf."
Payne, an Amateur staple since 1969, said the crowds were good all week, but that Thursday's was the largest at any Amateur he could remember. He said several factors led to the great response.
"It's a combination of things," Payne said. "I think the people of North Central West Virginia like golf and wanted to see a facility like the Pete Dye Golf Club, that isn't often open to the public.
"And I think that there's a lot of golfers out here to watch because of the quality of play from guys like Pat Carter and Michael Veres. They are putting on a great show."
James J. LaRosa, President of the Pete Dye Golf Club, said Thursday's turnout was "what I had hoped for."
"I can't recall ever seeing this type of gallery for the Amateur," LaRosa said. "It's wonderful."
LaRosa said that although hosting the Amateur interrupted the normal operation of the club, its members were proud to be the host site.
"There's no question there was a significant loss of revenue, but that was realized when we agreed to host it," LaRosa said. "The impact that we've been able to make for the game of golf makes it well worth it."
PROPHET?: About 10 minutes before a heavy downpour suspended play on Thursday, Director of Golf Bill Stines already knew what was going to happen.
"We're going to have to suspend play and maybe not get started back up until 5 o'clock," Stines told a few of the spectators.
Stines isn't a prophet, but he is well prepared.
Thanks to the club's Doppler radar system and an alert staff in the pro shop that seems to channel surf between The Weather Channel and The Golf Network on television as easily as Pat Carter drains birdie putts, Stines was able to call the field of golfers off the course in plenty of time to avoid dangerous situations.
THE GREENBRIER TROPHY?: Even though the Amateur isn't played exclusively at The Greenbrier anymore, the championship trophy is still named The Greenbrier Trophy.
The silver, 24-inch high traveling trophy costs $3,500 and isn't likely to be replaced, Payne said.
Although the trophy is insured, most winners choose to leave it in the possession of the association instead of taking it home, Payne said.