WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Win, lose or draw, Sam O'Dell doesn't appear to take his golf as seriously as you might think, but you wouldn't know it by the way he plays.
His laissez-faire personality doesn't extend to the golf course, where he has regularly attacked the Old White TPC and Greenbrier courses with nothing better than second-place finish to show for it.
O'Dell is out to change that in 2013, taking a four-stroke lead into the third round of the 94th State Amateur after a 6-under 66 on the Greenbrier Course on Tuesday.
His 2-under 68 on Monday at Old White on Monday put him four strokes ahead of the resurgent Alan Cooke of Vienna, whose 67 was the second-best round on the second day. In third place is Wheeling's Thadd Obecny, who will join O'Dell and Cooke in today's third round back on the Greenbrier Course.
"My putt on 14 hit the hole, my putt on 15 hit the hole, my putt on ... the last four holes they all hit the hole and on the high side too," said O'Dell, who followed a bogey on No. 7 with par, par, birdie, eagle, birdie and pars the rest of the round. "Eighteen, I stole a five there, I probably should've had a six there."
O'Dell isn't comfortable, even without 16 Amateur championships not playing in the 94th edition of the tournament. Thirteen-time winner Pat Carter spent the last week in Warner Robins, Ga., watching his 13-year-old son Hogan play in the Little League regional tournament, and three-time champ Tim Fisher was disqualified on Monday.
Those circumstances not only left the door open for O'Dell to get his first Amateur title in 19 tries, it also put in contention Cooke (four strokes back), Obecny (seven strokes back), and a bevy of other golfers who have a chance to go low on the Greenbrier Course today.
Cooke, who moved past the Greenbrier Classic pre-qualifier on June 28 to reach the July 1 Monday qualifier, has played in one Amateur. That was in 2010 when he failed to make the cut.
After graduating from Parkersburg High School in 2012, Cooke took a year off to sharpen his game at the International Junior Golf Academy, and it has paid dividends.
He bogeyed the first hole on the Greenbrier - as did O'Dell and Duke Erwin, who is tied for fifth after a 3-under 69 Tuesday. Cooke rebounded with a birdie, eagle, birdie, a par on No. 5 and a birdie on No. 6.
"I putted really well today," he said. "If I get within 110, 120, 130 yards, I know I can get close. I did that today and made some good putts.