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For these guys, it's still a game

(June 3) The greatest thing about the West Virginia Amateur golf tournament can be found in the name: It's an amateur event.

That means that, for the most part, the golfers who will try to add their name to the trophy next week work for a living.

Many of the participants in the long history of the event have been executives: Doctors, insurers, dentists, lawyers.

Others have held blue-collar jobs: Coal miners, masons, factory workers.

They don't collect a big paycheck for playing a game, unlike Mike Piazza, Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods.

They might get a little publicity during the four-day tournament, although that usually only goes to those at or near the top of the leaderboard, generally a small percentage of the field.

Yet most of them really seem to be having fun, from the Pat Carters and Harold Paynes who play to win to the guys who shoot themselves out of contention after the first few holes.

If you aren't busy next week, pop out to Pete Dye Golf Club and follow some of these guys around.

You'll be surprised at how well they play -- it's really not that different from a professional's game, except maybe in driving distance and putting consistency.

And if you're like me, you'll find it refreshing to finally find some athletes who don't consider themselves humanity's chosen ones.

PICK A SPOT: The best way to watch the Amateur on the first day is to pick a tough hole and check out the golfers as they come through.

It helps give a feel for who's playing well, and differing styles, plus is a pretty simple way to see a lot of golf.

No. 2, No. 17 or No. 18 might be good bets at Dye, because they're close to the clubhouse.

On subsequent days, it might be fun to pick one of the golfers in the top 10 and follow them around.

It's probably one of the few chances many will have to check out Pete Dye from start to finish, since the private golf club usually is off limits to the public.

But while admission is free, keep in mind that Dye officials will strictly enforce the high standard of decorum it expects from spectators. For a complete list of rules, check with the clubhouse prior to going out on the course. It might save embarrassment.

MY KINGDOM FOR A CADDIE: Caddies often provide some of the most intriguing stories at the Amateur.

And they could be a huge factor -- perhaps the determining one -- in this year's event.

Golfers had grown accustomed to particular caddies from the White Sulphur Springs area during all the years the event was held at The Greenbrier.

There will be a lot of new relationships struck this year between the caddies at Dye and the Amateur participants.

And that means there will be, have to be, some growing pains.

A caddy might know the layout well, but will have to learn his golfer's favorite clubs.

Other Amateur golfers will use the same family members or friends for caddies that they had used at The Greenbrier.

But those will be at a big disadvantage in knowledge of the course layout.