Baker's dozen for Carter
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Between the ever-growing group of young contenders, the increasing demands of fatherhood and that unstoppable foe Father Time, Pat Carter truly wondered if he'd ever win another West Virginia Amateur.
Thursday at The Greenbrier resort's fabled Old White TPC, the 44-year-old Huntington resident won his 13th championship, beating Winston Canada by two strokes. Carter finished with a 4-over-par 288 after his final-round 73.
That ended Carter's six-year drought, tied for the longest in his career. As a bonus he didn't enjoy in his first 12 wins, Carter earned a berth in the 2013 Greenbrier Classic.
"Winning is so tough to do, no matter what, no matter what tournament you're trying to play in golf," he said. "I wondered that, back in the day, if I was going to win my second one. It was the same thing: I won it in '89 and I didn't win it again until '95."
Twenty-three years removed from his first title, Carter has now won in four different decades. He used the same formula that earned him 10 straight titles from 1995-2004: Stay out of trouble, hit a big birdie putt or two and then watch the rest of the field come unglued.
He did very well on the first goal. He had a stretch of three bogeys in four holes to finish the front nine, but only suffered an inconsequential bogey on the 18th afterward. He had just one double bogey in 72 holes, coming Tuesday on Old White's tough No. 13.
He had two birdies Thursday, critical both at the time and by the round's conclusion.
On the par-4 fifth hole, Carter rolled in a 40-foot putt dead center, bringing him back to 1 over and giving him his first lead of the day. His "nervy" 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th gave him a two-shot lead, which quickly grew to three when Canada bogeyed the par-5 17th in the group ahead.
At that point, Carter reaped the rewards of a solid, unspectacular back nine which featured seven pars. Appropriately, he scored an even-par 36 on that side.
"I hit a bunch of quality iron shots, and that's been a strength my whole career," he said. "I didn't get a lot of the putts to fall, but hit a bunch of good putts [that came close]. Stress-free pars."
While he was recording those stress-free pars, Old White was stressing out his pursuers.
Carter began the day tied with Penn State player Jay Woodward and Marshall golfer Jeremy Rogers at 1 over, with Canada two shots back. One by one, those three contenders met with disaster.
Woodward was first to go sideways, with double bogeys on Nos. 7, 8 and 9. He needed two shots to get out of a bunker on No. 7, missed a 5-foot putt on No. 8 and found the trees on the left of No. 9.
On the latter hole, Carter had his own problems and found himself two shots behind Rogers at the turn. After pulling his drive almost to the adjacent fairway, Carter had to shoot over trees (he had no chance going underneath), and his second shot hit a branch and fell straight down. Still, he skated away with a bogey.
Rogers immediately gave up his two-shot lead with a double bogey on the 10th. He pushed his tee shot to the right, and his recovery shot was snagged by the long fescue above a fairway bunker and he then three-putted. When he suffered another double on the 14th, his 2-over score had become 7 over, and that's where he finished.
That was still good for third place, but . . .
"It's frustrating; deep down it hurts to let one slip away like that," said Rogers, a Buckhannon native.
Canada, the 24-year-old former Oak Hill and Campbell University player, kept finding trouble, but he was the last contender to fall away for good. With his booming drives, the burly Beckley resident birdied the sixth, ninth and 11th holes to climb to 2 over, taking a two-shot lead.
As in the case of Rogers, that lasted all of one hole.
Canada tried for the 568-yard 12th green in two, but his second shot landed among trees to the right. He had a tough chip, which he chunked short of the green, and he lost another shot in the process.
As he approached his ball, the club slipped out of his hands and hit the ball, thus incurring a one-stroke penalty. That turned his bogey into a double bogey, his fifth of the tournament (to go with two triple bogeys).
He was still in contention at 4 over but was tripped up by bogeys on the 14th and 17th. On the par-4 14th, the tee was moved from 401 to 320 yards to entice long hitters to go for the green, and Canada took the bait. His tee shot went well past the green, finding high grass near the 15th tee.
He second-guessed that decision, as well as one on his second shot on No. 17. He was going for the green in two on the 572-yard par-5, and mashed his drive appropriately. But his second shot never got high enough to clear a fairway bunker, and he knew his chances were dashed.
He bogeyed the hole. On the two par 5s, he was 3 over.
"I had 240 to the flag. I should have just hit a hard 4[-iron] and I tried to hit a big, high-cut 3," he said. "I came out of it." Sarcastically, he added, "That was a quality shot there."
Canada's last meltdown gave Carter a '90s-like championship walk down Nos. 17 and 18. He hit right on the par-3 18th but allowed himself a shot to get out of the tall fescue, then chipped onto the green and saved bogey with a 10-foot putt.
"I was very emotional coming down 17 fairway," Carter said. "I knew I had a three-shot lead at that point, and I was getting a little teary, to be honest. I was just trying to take deep breaths to get through, because there's nothing like winning this tournament."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.