State Amateur: O'Dell takes lead into final round
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - The 94th State Amateur began Wednesday with 36 holes remaining, but Hurricane's Sam O'Dell was in no mood to mess around with the teenagers in his group.
Mission accomplished during a round of fairways all day.
O'Dell birdied the first hole on the Greenbrier Course to extend his lead to five strokes and, 17 holes later, pushed it to a nine-stroke advantage entering today's final round on the Old White TPC.
His goal was to put pressure on Vienna 19-year-old Alan Cooke and Wheeling 17-year-old Thadd Obecny, and it was noticeable after one 423-yard, par 4 hole.
"On one, is when that happened," said the 35-year-old O'Dell, who bogeyed the Greenbrier Course's first hole on Tuesday. "I really, really, really wanted to get off to a good start because of that. If I make birdie on Pat Carter on the first hole, he doesn't care ... doesn't care.
"I wanted to hit it solid and hit a bunch of good golf shots at the beginning. I knew if I could get out there and hit it, it'd be like, 'Wow, he's here today, too.' And, that's how it started out."
Cooke, who started the day four strokes back, and Obecny, who was seven behind, cared.
"Thadd was joking about my putting (Tuesday)," O'Dell said. "Today, he was like, 'Oh, fairway, what a surprise.'"
O'Dell putted well on Tuesday to shoot a 6-under 66 and was hitting fairways Wednesday to shoot a 3-under 69. His round was everywhere as evidence of his aggressiveness on the Greenbrier's forgiving greens.
He had two eagles, four birdies, three bogeys and a double bogey. He only had eight pars.
"I'm more aggressive on (the Greenbrier), for sure," O'Dell said. "I think a lot of these greens aren't as sloped over here so if you can get it out in a position that you can go at it, you have a putt you can make."
Obecny had a par on No. 1 and said it wasn't until two holes later that he started feeling the pressure.
"He just kept making putts on me," he said. "When I bogeyed 3 and he parred, I put myself behind the eight ball. When the other guy's making putts from everywhere, it obviously takes its toll on everybody."
Obecny rebounded on 14 with an eagle that put him 1-over for the day, but a triple bogey on No 17 pushed him into a tie for fifth place with Madison's Harry Howell and out of today's final group.
"When he's hitting shots you really can't do anything about it," Obecny said.
Cooke scrambled to survive and hold onto second place with two eagles that offset two double bogeys. His birdie on No. 18 secured him second place but also left him staring at a 9-stroke deficit.
White Sulphur Springs' Nick Dent stormed into the picture on Wednesday with five consecutive birdies beginning on No. 8. He parred out starting on No. 13 and is in third place and one of three players to shoot below par after three rounds.
Hurricane's Brian Anania (70), Howell (71), Bridgeport's Woody Woodward (70), Charleston's Bosten Miller (67), Huntington's Ian Patrick (67) and Lewisburg's Thomas Knight (71) were under par on Wednesday. The top 15 finishers today earn an exemption into next year's 95th State Amateur.
Jess Ferrell, who earned a Greenbrier Classic exemption with a State Amateur runner-up finish in 2011, is 5-over and tied for eighth, but is one of only four players to not shoot higher than 73 in any of the first three rounds.
This tournament, however, belongs to O'Dell. The Old White TPC doesn't offer as many opportunities to go low, so the goal for much of the field is to shoot for second place, or a top 15 to avoid facing State Amateur qualifying in 2014.
"Sometimes over there (Old White), you hit it out there, the greens are so tough, depending on where the pin is," O'Dell said. "You might get it in a spot where you're 10 to 12 feet where you'll only make it a third of the time anyway. The reward's far better over here and the risk is bigger over there (Old White) sometimes.
"I just want to tee it up. In nine holes, if I maintain that lead or grow that lead, there might be a couple holes that I play something safer."
If O'Dell holds on, it'll be his first State Amateur championship during a string of 19 appearances that include six top five finishes, nine top 10s and only two missed cuts (1998 at Pete Dye Golf Club and 2003 at the Greenbrier).
In 2011, former Capital High School and Marshall University player Christian Brand led by five strokes into the final round - which was played on the Greenbrier Course. He extended the lead to nine with a 1-under 71.
O'Dell leads by nine heading into the final 18 holes.
"I want to get off to a good start and not give anybody hope," O'Dell said.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.