State Amateur: O'Dell only player under par for first round
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hurricane's Sam O'Dell was the only player in the first round of the 94th State Amateur to shoot under par.
Although there are three rounds to go - including the next two on the Greenbrier Course - the disqualification of three-time champion Tim Fisher on Monday could have improved O'Dell's chances to win his first Amateur.
O'Dell shot a 2-under 68 on the Old White TPC to take a two-shot lead into today's second round on the Greenbrier Course. Wheeling's Thadd Obecny was even, giving the championship only two players to shoot par or better.
"I played great," O'Dell said. "I drove the ball pretty well today. I made putts."
The dentist had seven pars, a double bogey and three bogeys in the first round of the Amateur, which he has finished in the top 10 six times since 1999. O'Dell was fourth last year and tied for second in 2011, missing a spot in the Greenbrier Classic when he lost in a playoff to Jess Ferrell.
As for Fisher's return to the Amateur after three suspensions cost him participating in West Virginia Golf Association events since 2010, it lasted a round - until it was discovered that he hit the wrong ball on No. 12.
Obecny, who - with Woody Woodward - was in a threesome with Fisher, said there was no question the three-time champion hit the wrong ball.
"It was on 12, par 5, dog leg right," Obecny said. "He hit his ball like 50 yards into those trees. Me and Woody, we get up there, and Woody has been outdriving him by 50 yards all day. He (Fisher) finds his ball like 340 yards out from the tee box. Me and Woody walked over and said there's no way that's his golf ball.
"Brad (Ullman) went back and finds (Fisher's) ball in the woods. We were in the scoring tent about 15 minutes. It's either your ball or it's not your ball."
Fisher said, "They asked me, but I couldn't be 100 percent sure."
The result was Fisher's disqualification.
"I pretty much abandoned the ball," Fisher said. "I went over to hit my provisional, which was in the fairway, and my caddy said he found it. It had my markings on it. I played it and the guy I played with said it wasn't my ball.
"I said if there's any doubt I'm going home."
Fisher was suspended by the United States Golf Association in 2010 for not following protocol for leaving the Public Links Tournament without notification. He was also suspended by the West Virginia Golf Association, and received another WVGA suspension for a "breach of the code of conduct."
The Statts Mills resident was playing in his first WVGA event since 2010 and said he didn't want to be the center of controversy.
"For the integrity and protection of the field, there wasn't 100 percent certainty (it was my ball)," Fisher said. "There's a one percent chance it could've been. That's not worth the one percent. I couldn't give an honest answer."
As for Obecny, he had four birdies and four bogeys to finish with par. At the turn, the rising senior at Wheeling Park High School was even when a birdie and three bogeys in the next seven holes put him at 2-over. Birdies on the final two holes brought him back to even.
"I played pretty well on the front nine," said Obecny, the two-time Class AAA medalist at the State High School Tournament. "I hit a bunch of greens, made a few putts. I didn't play as well on the back nine but I birdied the last two holes."
Despite trailing O'Dell by two strokes entering the first of two rounds on the Greenbrier Course, Obecny likes his chances.
"I think I can put four rounds together," he said. "I played a bunch of tournaments, so I'm used to it. For other guys, they're not as used to it."
O'Dell, who has finished in the top five in three of the last four years, isn't one of those "guys."
Like many of the players in the field, O'Dell feels the scores can go lower on the Greenbrier.
"I felt that if I shot 71 or better I would be more than happy," O'Dell said. "Even a 73, I was fine. (On the Greenbrier), you can move up the leaderboard quick. There are a lot of birdie opportunities."
Three players are tied for third at 1-over, with Vienna's Chris Barlament, Buckhannon's Jeremy Rogers - who finished third last year - and Vienna's Alan Cooke.
Defending champion Pat Carter withdrew to watch his son play in the Little League Southeastern Regional Tournament in Warner Robins, Ga.