While several sports are in the early processes of starting up after the coronavirus pandemic put nearly everything on hold, the West Virginia Golf Association is already in the swing of things and then some.
Already in the thick of Callaway Junior Tour, Amateur Tour and Senior Series events, state championships also got underway this week, as Pat Carter claimed his first Senior Open Championship on Monday at Parkersburg Country Club.
The WVGA also ran its first Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League event on Saturday at Mingo Bottom Golf Course in Elizabeth. Throughout, qualifying rounds for both the Junior Match Play and the 87th West Virginia Open are being conducted with those two championships as well as the Women’s Senior Amateur slated to be held in the coming weeks.
WVGA Executive Director Brad Ullman admitted it’s a busy time but said it’s far from business as usual as events pile up.
“We are definitely full-steam ahead in the amount of events we’re conducting, however we’re still in an extremely cautious phase,” Ullman said. “We’re still easing back into the process and so are our players. We’ve had sold-out fields since we’ve started conducting events, but those are definitely at a limited capacity. I have to give a lot of kudos to our host facilities and also to the players for following guidelines.”
Good place to start
Saturday’s Rookie League debut was years in the making, but is something the organization is excited about moving forward.
The field is split into three divisions — AAA, AA and A — and involve different tiers of competition. Both AAA and AA are nine-hole competitions with A being six holes with maximum scores of 10 on each hole. Players may have caddies and pull carts, but motorized carts are not allowed. The cost is $12 per event with boys and girls playing together.
But for Ullman, it’s yet another chance to reach the state’s youth more than anything else.
“Our First Tee program does a fantastic job introducing the game and the Callaway Junior Tour is great for the competitive golfer, it’s that gap in between that we were lacking,” Ullman said. “This allows kids of all ages to participate and learn competitive golf.”
A turnout of 27 players from ages 5-16 turned out Saturday. The Rookie League will consist of five events in Wood County this summer, with plans of expanding both in terms of dates and locations in the coming years.
Carter adds to resume
Finding new things to achieve in golf in the state of West Virginia is becoming more difficult by the year for Carter, though he did just that on Monday.
Carter shot 8 under par through two rounds on Sunday and Monday, leaving the field in his wake with Barry Evans and Ty Roush each finishing at even par to tie for second.
It was the first Open win for the 13-time West Virginia Amateur champion of any kind and he became just the second player, along with friend Steve Fox, to win all four of the WVGA’s senior “majors” — Senior Open, Senior Amateur (match and stroke play) and the Senior Four-Ball. Carter accomplished the feat in just his third year as a senior.
“For Pat to win all that by the age of 52 is impressive,” Ullman said. “And I think we’re probably going to see a lot more of that. He’s obviously already a Hall of Famer in West Virginia and he’ll likely continue making history for years to come.”
The Women’s Senior Amateur is the next championship event on the WVGA schedule and will be played Monday and Tuesday at Stonewall Resort. Then comes the Junior Match Play (June 19-20 at Parkersburg Country Club) and then the 87th West Virginia Open (June 23-25 at the Resort at Glade Springs). Both qualifiers for the Junior Match Play have been held with three remaining for the Open.
The Open is one of the organization’s two keystone events along with the West Virginia Amateur, which will celebrate its 101st year of competition in late July at The Greenbrier. More eyes will be on the WVGA for the Open and Ullman said every precaution is being taken to ensure a safe experience for all players in the field.
“Significant plans are being made to ensure we can conduct the event in the best way we can,” Ullman said.
Ullman added that while player turnout has been tremendous, the organization could do with a little more volunteer help, especially as it prepares for the meat of its championship season.
“With some of the events being postponed until later, the need for volunteerism is higher than ever,” Ullman said. “It’s a great opportunity for people willing to volunteer and learn about golf administration, learn about the rules of golf and how tournaments are managed. Anyone wanting to get engaged with the WVGA, all they need to do is contact our office and talk to one of us.”