The excitement is starting to build for Jess Ferrell, the 19-year-old from Fairmont who right now is the only West Virginia golfer in next week's PGA Greenbrier Classic.
Pretty soon, he'll be rubbing elbows with some of the world's top players.
"Yeah, it's starting to sink in,'' Ferrell said Thursday. "It will really sink in Monday when I'm on the [driving] range with them, and on the golf course with them.''
Ferrell, a rising junior at Fairmont State, earned an exemption into this year's Greenbrier field by finishing in a tie for second at last year's State Amateur and beating Hurricane's Sam O'Dell in a playoff.
Christian Brand, last year's Amateur champion, played in the 2011 Greenbrier Classic, but with the PGA tournament moving up to the Fourth of July week this year (and being played before the 2012 State Amateur), last year's runner-up gets this year's Greenbrier exemption.
And unless someone with West Virginia ties earns a spot in Monday's qualifier -- someone like Bakerton's David Bradshaw, Freeman's John Ross or Edgewood Country Club pro Craig Berner -- then Ferrell should gain additional followers as the state's lone representative in perhaps its biggest sporting event.
"I'm expecting a lot of people to come watch me,'' Ferrell said. "A lot of people in Fairmont said they'll come. My dad [Willard] is going to caddy for me, my mom and sister will be there all week and friends of the family are coming to watch Thursday and Friday.
"So I've got a little following - not anything like the other guys - but maybe about 30 people.''
Ferrell is only guaranteed two rounds in the 72-hole tournament, but the first State Amateur winner to play in the event left his successors with a hard act to follow. Jonathan Bartlett, the 2010 Am champ who recently turned pro, made the 36-hole cut on the Old White TPC course two years ago.
"That's my ultimate goal - making the cut,'' Ferrell said. "The only thing I've got to do is play two good rounds. If I hit the ball well enough and hit enough greens to make birdies and stay around par, then everything's going right. I figure the cut will be around par.