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Just one more chance

DANIELS - A longtime Mercer County resident, John Ross is itching, more than most, to get into the Greenbrier Classic. He was so, so close last year.

"To play in [the Classic] at age 60, it would be just like playing in a major," he said. "I don't know how many PGA Tour events I've played in my career, maybe 50, 55. I'd like to get another crack at it - I know the Old White course pretty well."

Ross was one of 90 players who took a swing at The Greenbrier Classic pre-qualifying tournament Thursday at Glade Springs. He shot a 3-over-par 75, making the top 50 right on the number.

That wasn't exactly the best round of the day - two players blitzed the course for a 66 - but he did advance to Monday's open qualifier, where the top four finishers will earn spots in next week's PGA Tour event.

As a one-time Tour member who has also played some Champions Tour events, Ross has seen it all when it comes to getting into a field.

"I know this golf course pretty well. I used to represent Glade," he said. "So I feel like that equalizes things out. Today, sure, I would have loved to have shot 66, but 75 still accomplishes the same thing. Last year, I was in the playoffs in the [Monday] qualifier, so I'd like to get some redemption.

"If I get my putting ironed out, I'll be ready to go."

The stakes weren't nearly as high Thursday as they will be on Monday - after all, 52 made this cut - but players had to navigate the Cobb Course in good enough shape to advance.

There was a wide cross-section of golfers chasing their long-odds dream of making next weeks' classic. Those included:

  • David Bradshaw - Coming off a $30,000 paycheck at the Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational in Pittsburgh, the Jefferson County native had a suddenly easy trip to Raleigh County. It was the biggest paycheck of his professional career.
  • He wants more, obviously.

    "I want to be [at the Classic]. I want to represent the state of West Virginia," Bradshaw said. "You can't think about it; you've just got to play golf."

  • Kenneth Hess -   The Parkersburg native finished third with a 5-under 67, beaten only by Alex Hamilton and Lanto Griffin. Working half the year at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., he is coming off a 12th-place finish at the West Virginia Open.
  • With Poca teen Grant Humphrey serving as his caddy, Hess had one of the better rounds of his career.

    "I had a great caddy," Hess said. "He clubbed me right all day. I just came out and had fun; that's all I was doing. And the putts dropped."

  • Jonathan Bartlett - The first player to win a Greenbrier Classic exemption out of the West Virginia Amateur, Bartlett fired an even-par 72. Now a resident of Hilton Head Island, S.C., he turned pro for the second time recently.
  • Very recently.

    "Literally, three or four days ago," said Bartlett, who made the 36-hole Classic cut in 2010. "I'm getting ready for 'Q School'. It means a lot to me. I'll give it a year and a half, two years. I'm not going to chase it for 10. There came a point where either I was going to do it, or not do it and forget about it."

  • Christian Brand - After tying Bradshaw for second at the State Open, the Capital High and Marshall graduate shot a 71. He knows he needs to lop a few shots off that on Monday.
  • "Today, you survive and advance," he said. "You just try to put together a good score, don't shoot yourself in the foot. [On Monday] if you start thinking about all those extra factors, you're going to shoot yourself out of the tournament."

  • Bosten Miller - As his entrance to medical school draws closer, the Capital/Marshall grad shot a 73.
  • A sampling of other qualifiers shows a broad range of backgrounds.

  • Andrew Giuliani came from New York City and, yes, he is son of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He was a cast member on two seasons of "The Big Break" on Golf Channel, and he once unsuccessfully sued Duke University over his dismissal from that team.
  • He's still looking for his big break in pro golf, and The Greenbrier Classic caught his eye. He made some Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour events last year.

  • Doug Spencer, who hit the cut on the 75 number, is a 1999 Parkersburg South High graduate who has worked for the Brian Mogg Golf Academy as an instructor - in South Korea.
  • The academy has helped world-ranked Y.E. Yang on the men's side, and a number of current LPGA stars.

    Spencer is about to settle in at Wedgewood Country Club near Columbus, Ohio.

    The 52 qualifiers will join an advanced group of professionals Monday, again at the Cobb Course. Current PGA Tour members, not otherwise qualifying for the Classic, are allowed to advance straight to Monday's tournament and battle for one of just four spots.

    Also eligible for Monday are Web.com Tour and Champions Tour members, as well as two members from the Tri-State Section of the PGA of America - one being Edgewood Country Club head pro Craig Berner. PGA Tour players from 2009-11 who have since lost their status also are eligible.

    That makes the odds even longer, but Thursday's qualifiers aren't worried about it. They seemed to boldly pull out their credit cards for the additional $200 entry fee.

    They'll have to be equally bold on Monday, when a 66 might not get it done.

    "You're going to have to put your blinders on," Ross said. "It will be a strong field."

    Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

     

     


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