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Catching up with a few sons of Marshall

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- ALL RIGHT, gang of green, your team's spring football practice gets underway in a day or so, which means we shall discuss ...

Golf.

A little soccer, too. Maybe baseball, too, if you can hack you way through it all.

Hey, it happens when the entire football program - players, coaches, everybody - go on spring break. All are back today, preparing to shake off their considerable rust Tuesday.

So last week I caught up with two sons of Marshall who have stayed busy, including:

  • Christian Brand. The former Capital High and MU golfer did have a spring break of sorts, coming back to town after picking up a few paychecks over the winter. Since turning pro last May 1, he has gotten a good taste of that game, be it good, bad or ugly.
  • In the summer of 2012, he played six events on the Carolinas-based eGolf Professional Tour, making two cuts and winning a modest $2,257.50. He made a few more bucks on the NGA Tour, making two of three cuts for $4,020. Also, toss in that $2,700 he won for tying for second at the West Virginia Open.

    After that, he took his first shot at the PGA Tour's qualifying tournament, also known as "Q School." He made the grade in the Prequalifying Stage, but bowed out in the First Stage in October.

    Another learning experience.

    "It's just like another tournament," he said. "I think last year I almost put too much pressure on myself. It's really another four-day tournament until you get to the final stage. It's not too bad."

    Shortly afterward, he took a respectable run at the NGA Winter Series, making the cut seven out of nine starts and earning $8,047. That's not bad - only about one-third of the players make the cut, compared with the 70-plus out of 156 at the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic.

    His best was a tie for 13th, so he needs a taste of serious contention. He got that playing in two events on the really low-stakes West Florida Golf Tour, losing in a three-way playoff on Feb. 11.

    Since then, he has played three eGolf events, making the cut in all and earning $3,028.33. He traveled to Wilmington, N.C., today in preparation for a tournament in nearby Southport.

    He'll take his shot at bigger and better platforms, certainly. When the Web.com Tour shifts to the East, he'll enter Monday qualifiers for those. He'll take another stab at the Greenbrier Classic qualifier, in which a 66 only qualified in a six-for-four-spot playoff in 2012.

    "You have to bide your time. Eventually, you're going to get there," he said. "Everybody's on a different track, but you'll get there - if you're dedicated enough."

  • Daniel Withrow. The just-graduated Marshall soccer goalkeeper, a Conference USA Co-Player of the Year as a senior, has a good look at the big-time with the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.
  • Drafted in the second round of the MLS Supplemental Draft, he became the third MU player so honored (Byron Carmichael, Kansas City Wizards, 2003; Jeremy Ashe, Chicago Fire, 2006). The Crew is a good fit, both in location and reputation in American soccer circles.

    It is one of the league's charter franchises with the oldest soccer-specific stadium, site of World Cup qualifiers from time to time (Sept. 10 vs. Mexico this year).

    "It was perfect," he said last week. "If I had to draw it up and say, 'This is exactly where I want to be,' Columbus would be in play. I mean, four hours away from home, just a couple hours away from Charleston and a couple of hours away from Huntington, it went down really nicely."

    His challenge now is to get on the field. Four matches into the new season, Withrow is the team's No. 3 keeper, thus awaiting his pro debut.

    "It's definitely a battle," he said. "A team at this level is going to have two or three guys well-established, within the team. Right now, we have a great starter in Andy [Gruenebaum] and a solid backup in Matt [Lampson]. I knew that going in, but I'm not just going to walk on the field; there's going to be time.

    "I'm going to have to play my dues, so to speak, before I get my chance to play."

  • Dan Straily. OK, I'm throwing in your baseball bonus with an update on Marshall's first major leaguer in, oh, about three centuries. (Sorry about that, Rick Reed and Jeff Montgomery.)
  • Straily was brought up by the Oakland Athletics for seven starts over two different stints last summer, going 2-1 with a 3.89 earned-run average in 391/3 innings with 16 walks and 32 strikeouts. One knock: Eleven of his 19 runs allowed were batters scoring on home runs.

    He is not faring as well this spring, going 1-2 with a 6.59 ERA in five starts, 132/3 innings. His other problem may be the depth of the team's roster, and at least one analyst has him losing out to A.J. Griffin for the No. 5 spot.

    That could have Straily starting the season down the road in Triple-A Sacramento, but we'll see.

    With that, we're a day away from seeing if Thundering Herd coordinator Chuck Heater can warm up a defense.

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


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