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81st STATE OPEN: Brand’s Web.com adventure could leave him out of the mix at Glade Springs

By Rich Stevens, Assistant sports editor

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Having a couple near misses has to have Christian Brand chomping at the bit.

As a partially exempt Web.com Tour player, he has played more golf than virtually any player in the field for the 81st State Open Championship, set for July 21-25 at the Resort at Glade Springs’ Cobb Course in Daniels.

Maybe it has come time for the former Capital High School and Marshall University star, who has a title or finished No. 1 at virtually every level, to win his first Open, even if it doesn’t come this year.

Brand said it’s a “50-50 chance” he will be reshuffled into next week’s Web.com Tour Utah Championship. He’s signed up for the Open and set for a 9:20 a.m. tee time off the No. 10 hole with Bob Friend and Evan Muscari. There’s a chance an alternate will fill his spot.

Brand would rather shuffle off to Sandy, Utah, then play at the Cobb — for obvious reasons.

His five-year plan of making it as a pro is ahead of schedule but any kind of setback would damage his goal.

“I turned pro in May of 2012, so I’m 26 months in,” he said. “It’s really just about this point learning how to score, how to get it in the hole on your off days. The things that a guy like Barry Evans, even a David Bradshaw, playing professional for so long, have innately picked up and haven’t even realized it. That’s what I’m trying to learn and adapt to.”

As a high school player, Brand was Class AAA medalist at the 2005 high school state tournament in Wheeling.

As a Marshall player, he wasn’t medalist at any tournaments, but by the time he graduated (2011), he led the team in low average as a sophomore (2007-08), junior (2008-09), and redshirt senior (2010-11). In 2011, he won the 92nd State Amateur Championship and played in the second annual Greenbrier Classic later that year.

Of course, the money will help fund his quest to become a PGA Tour golfer — a dream of his since his high school days.

More money in the Web.com would be even better.

In December, he rolled through five stages of Web.com qualifying school, only to fall short in the sixth and final stage, permitting him limited access on the Web.com Tour.

“It wasn’t disappointing because last year I had a horrible start to my year,” said the 26-year-old. “I stopped and said, ‘What’s the real goal?’ My goal was to get on the Web.com Tour at the end of the year and that’s as far as I could progress. I was standing in the 18th fairway after 89 holes and, if I made birdie, I would be fully exempt.

“That’s the way it is. Only being a pro for two years. Once you get on the Web.com and hear some of the other stories, you realize you’ve done this pretty quickly. It’s nice to fall back on that.”

The first cut he made was at Nova Scotia Open, where he had his best finish, tied for 46th and earned $1868.50 — or roughly $5,000 less than he would claim with an Open championship.

Brand can’t turn down an opportunity to play in a Web.com event, even if it means losing money. If he ends up in the Open, he’ll have his hands full there, also.

First he’ll have to catch the favorite, David Bradshaw. Bradshaw, who has been in and out of PGA Tour events while seeking his Tour card, has won seven of the last 10 Opens, buoyed only by losses to Craig Berner title in 2005 at the Raven at Snowshoe, a Barry Evans crown in 2008 at Berry Hills Country Club and a 2012 Jonathan Clark championship at Edgewood Country Club.

Clark’s second championship was a six-shot runaway over Bradshaw and Brand, a one-stroke loss to Bradshaw in 2004 at Edgewood and a one-shot defeat to Bradshaw in 2006 at the site of this year’s open.

Bradshaw, as long as he competes in the Open, will be the favorite. He missed the cut at the PGA Tour’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, marking his fourth consecutive season playing in a PGA Tour event. He missed the cut in all of them.

“I don’t play nearly as much,” said Clark, the general manager at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club. “I always joke that I sell hot dogs at the course rather than play golf.

“But, the fact is, Bradshaw plays every day. Regardless of the fact he plays every day and is a tour pro, he’s a great player. The guy strikes the ball extremely well. If his putter gets hot, he’s going to be under par ... very far under par. It still comes down to what happens on those three days. Things can change. It’s who plays the best and putts the best and gets it up and down that week.”

For Brand’s part, he has two top 10 finishes, one missed cut, three top 3s, a top 10, and a variety of top 20s and 40s total in his 10 Opens.

There are other contenders beyond Bradshaw, Clark and Brand. John Ross, a resident of Freeman who has made two cuts in three events in the Champions Tour this season, has won the Open twice (1997, ‘99). Brad Westfall has five titles (1992, ‘94, 2000, ‘02, ‘03), Harold Payne has won the Open four times (1986-88, ‘93) as has Scott Davis (1982, ‘90, ‘95, ‘98).

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SINCE BRADSHAW won his first Open in 2004 — after which the former Shepherd golfer and amateur received a friendly bear hug from second-place Clark — there have been eight players finish second behind him with Clark twice (2004, ‘06), Barry Evans (2006), Pat Carter (2006), Bob Friend twice (2007, 2011), John Ross twice (2009, ‘11) and Tim Fisher (2010).

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THE 54-HOLE tournament begins officially on July 23, with the Coca-Cola Shootout set for July 21 and the Pro-Am scheduled for July 22.

Berths go to all former champions as well as the top 40 from last year, many of the WVGA-sponsored events during the season and five qualifiers that fill out the field.

Playoffs are not used to determine medalists at the qualifiers. The co-medalists at Riverside Golf Club in Mason were Austin Davis, Aaron Persily, Bud Tate and Larry Kalaskey III.

At Lakeview Resort in Morgantown, the medalist was Trent McPherson. Carl Roncaglione, Jon Bartlett and Will Johnson held the spots from the Edgewood Country Club qualifier in Sissonville, while Chad Baldwin was medalist at the Resort at Glade Springs Cobb Course in Daniels. The fifth, and final qualifier at Moundsville Country Club saw Anthony Degori and Tim Osborne claim spots as medalists.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-4837. Follow him on Twitter @richdailymail


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