CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The trickle-down effect from the Greenbrier Classic seems to have hit amateur golf in West Virginia.
The set of six State Amateur qualifiers around the state that begin today have attracted just under 400 competitors, with four of the fields being sold out.
"That's huge. That's remarkable,'' said Ken Tackett, executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association.
"That's the most for the State Amateur in a long time, back when it was $60 [to enter, instead of the current $75]. It says a lot about golf in West Virginia.''
The State Amateur will again be contested at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs Aug. 5-8, with play alternating on the Old White TPC and Greenbrier courses.
The first qualifier comes today at Cacapon State Park in Berkeley Springs, with a field of 34 registered.
The others (with players entered) are Monday at Sleepy Hollow in Hurricane (81), Tuesday at Greenhills Country Club in Ravenswood (78), Wednesday at Lewisburg Elks (46), Friday at Grandview Golf Club in Beaver (78) and July 29 at Bridgeport Country Club (78).
A full field is 78 at most venues, but Sleepy Hollow can handle a few more.
Certainly, the PGA Greenbrier Classic, which just completed its fourth year, has spiked interest in the sport around the state. Perhaps the WVGA whittling the Amateur qualifiers from 36 holes to 18 holes three years ago is another reason.
"It compares well around the country, 400 for our State Amateur,'' Tackett said. "Nebraska has 185. The Carolinas - North and South - have 700 for two states, and they have 18,000 members.
"We have a lot of pride in what we do. We try to run our championships at a high level, and give our guys the white-glove treatment.''
Tackett said the number of golfers who make the grade at each qualifier "all comes down to math.''
Thirty players are exempt from qualifying for the State Amateur due to their top-15 finishes in last year's tournament or being one of the top 15 amateurs in the 2013 West Virginia Open. Thus, about 70 total spots are available in the qualifiers.
"It's usually about a one-in-four ratio,'' Tackett said of the number of golfers who advance from each qualifier, "but this year it's about a one-in-five ratio, and almost a one-in-six. It's really awesome we got that type of participation this year.''
This year's State Amateur marks the return of three-time champion Tim Fisher of Statts Mills, who served a pair of suspensions the last three years.
Fisher was suspended in August of 2010 by the U.S. Golf Association because he withdrew from the U.S. Public Links Championships in North Carolina in order to play in the West Virginia Open. The USGA said Fisher did not give proper notification. The WVGA also barred Fisher from its events for one year for the same reason.
When the first suspension was about to lift, the WVGA banned him again for a breach of its code of conduct in July of 2011. That suspension ends on Wednesday.