Greenbrier Classic: Poca teen humbled by selection for tournament
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - For three years, Alex Hamrick worked The Greenbrier Classic's rope lines to get his favorite golfers' signatures as they walked off the course.
On Monday, the 15-year-old Poca High School student was on the other side of the ropes. With an entourage in tow, he joined those same golfers.
"It's a lot better to play than to watch," Hamrick said after playing his first game on The Old White TPC.
Hamrick joined fellow amateurs Lute Harmon Jr. and Steve Buist in a foursome led by PGA Tour pro D.J. Trahan as part of Monday's Pro-Am Tournament at the Classic.
Though he's played since age 10, it was Hamrick's first time playing The Old White.
It's a stage he didn't think he'd perform on so early in life.
Hamrick was one of two West Virginia teenagers selected to play in two Pro-Am tournaments this week. Caleb Lee, 18, of Worthington, will play in Wednesday's event.
Even as he walked the course Monday, a humbled Hamrick still couldn't understand how he got there.
"I don't know why they picked me," he said. "I was kind of surprised."
The spots opened up through the state Development Office's sponsorship of the event.
Amy Shuler Goodwin, spokeswoman for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said the governor was interested in finding a way to use the event to highlight young West Virginia golfers.
She said the governor asked state Commerce Department officials if they could use some of the Development Office's spots in the Pro-Am for young players.
"We said we would like to highlight our junior golf program," Goodwin said. "We told them this was something they've done a really good job with, and if we have two spots, we'd like to have two spots."
Officials set aside the one slot in each of the Monday and Wednesday tournaments. Tomblin then called West Virginia Golf Association President Ken Tackett for recommendations on who to sponsor for the tournament.
Tomblin didn't just want a couple of kids who were great at golf; he wanted them to have great character as well, Goodwin said.
"We said give us two junior golfers that show that can-do spirit, have a great attitude and great sportsmanship," she said.
Tackett told the governor's office there were many teenagers across the state who fit that description, but Hamrick and Lee stood out the most.
Goodwin then called the Hamrick home in Red House and left a message for Alex.
Alex's mother, Lorna Hamrick, was first to check the answering machine that evening and hear Goodwin's message.
The mother of two teenage boys said she didn't know what to think.
"I said, 'Alex, why is someone from the governor's office calling for you?' " Lorna said. "He just said, 'I have no idea.' "
They called back and gladly accepted Tomblin's invitation to play in the Pro-Am event.
Alex was allowed to pick anyone he wanted as his caddie, but he only wanted one person by his side: his older brother, George.
George, 19, just finished his freshman year at the University of Charleston, where he played on the school's golf team.
It was George, who started playing golf 8 years ago, who inspired Alex to follow in the game.
While George helped guide Alex on the course Monday, the rest of the family was in tow.
"We used to be a big baseball family but got into golf," said Don Hamrick, the boys' father.
Lorna, 57, and Don, 60, followed their sons step-by-step on the course Monday, as they've done countless times in the past.
Whether it was George's college tournaments, or Alex's high school matches, mom and dad have made sure they watched every drive.
"It's a big family event," Don said. "We go to all the golf matches."
Alex and George made sure to get plenty of tips from Trahan on ways to improve their game.
Both said Trahan helped them improve their approach to their putting game.
George, who will play in an amateur tournament on The Old White TPC in a few weeks, was also making mental notes on how he might improve his game for that tournament as well.
Meanwhile, Dad sat back on his portable stool and just smiled.
"It's hard to believe," he said. "Not just a few years ago they were playing on little old Coonskin golf course in Kanawha County, and now they're here playing with one of golf's best.
"As a parent, it doesn't hardly get any better than this."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4836.More Greenbrier headlines