State Amateur: Hurricane's O'Dell wins first title
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va - It took Hurricane's Sam O'Dell 19 tries, a couple missed cuts and a handful of top 10 finishes to earn the reaction he had on the No. 18 hole at the Old White TPC on Thursday.
O'Dell tossed his club, smiled widely and put his arms up to welcome caddy and best friend John Duty Jr. to a hug after winning the 94th State Amateur.
"It means everything," said O'Dell, who was emotional during the awards ceremony. "I thought I pretty much won it (Wednesday). I didn't do as badly as I could've today."
His final round wasn't a thing of beauty with a 6-over 70. In fact, the result was a six-stroke lead over Fairmont's Woody Woodward and Hurricane's Brian Anania.
"That was part of it," said O'Dell, who has nine top-10 finishes and only one missed cut in the Amateur when it was played at the Greenbrier. "The greens were slower today. A lot slower than they were Monday. As long as I stay aggressive, you can make everything."
However, O'Dell thought a 6-foot par-saving putt on No. 11 sealed the deal.
"The putt on 11 was big," he said. "Right up the hill. I felt like I hit a couple putts decent but the speed wasn't right. I knew this one did and I made it. Honestly, I thought it was mine when I made that putt."
On the next hole the rain began, slowing the greens more than they were and ultimately making O'Dell's job even easier.
"That was just when I was getting my feel a little bit," said O'Dell, who was five over at the time. "You have to look at that as, the setup was going to be harder. When the rain started, it's brutal for anyone to make a birdie. That's all in my favor. That's great. Somebody would've had to do something special."
The dentist led every round of the championship, days that included texts and phone conversations with 13-time winner Pat Carter, who couldn't play in the Amateur because he was in Warner Robins, Ga., watching 13-year-old son Hogan play in the Little League Southeast Regional.
The most important, yet brief, call from O'Dell's patient came Thursday morning.
"He told me, 'Build off those three rounds, it's nothing. You'll be more nervous than you were the first three days. That's Norman. You're good,'" O'Dell said. "That's all I needed and we hung up."
O'Dell was being chased by Woodward, who was the only player to shoot under par on Thursday, as well as Anania and White Sulphur Springs' Nick Dent. Ironically, his 76 was tied for the 21st highest round (76) in the final round.
But, it was the other 43 players on the Old White TPC Thursday who were doing the chasing.
For the first time since the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010, an exemption to the PGA Tour event doesn't come with the Amateur championship.
"If I would've shot a 68 today, I would've said I deserved a spot in the Greenbrier Classic," O'Dell said jokingly.
The top 15 will earn an exemption into the 2014 Amateur, which is slated for June next year - less than a month before the Greenbrier Classic July 3-6.
Wheeling's Thadd Obecny, who finished 10th last year, was fifth on Thursday. Vienna's Alan Cooke was sixth, Bosten Miller seventh, Philip Reale - the older brother of 2007 champion Anthony Reale - was tied for eighth with Madison's Harry Howell and Buckhannon's Jeremy Rogers. Rogers, whose father Mike caddied for him this week, was third. Huntington's Ian Patrick and Fairmont's Jess Ferrell - who played in the 2012 Greenbrier Classic - were tied for 11th. Charleston's Will Evans, whose father Barry caddied for him Thursday, was 13th, and Mason's Trent Roush was 14th.
Davey Jude, whose father David finished third at the Amateur in 1995, was tied for 15th with Wheeling's Bryan Myers and Alderson's Josh Boswell. Myers' best finish was 2011 when he tied for fourth.
Next year's Amateur champion will receive an exemption into the fifth annual Classic.
O'Dell isn't concerned about not earning a spot, but said defending his Amateur title will be easier than winning it for the first time.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.