Father and son savor championship
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -- Brian Anania got a jump this year on choosing a Father's Day gift for dad Geno.
The actual holiday was Sunday, but Anania presented his father with an ideal early present on Friday, June 13, when he won the 95th West Virginia Amateur by two shots over Evan Muscari at The Greenbrier Resort.
Geno worked the bag for his son for two rounds over the Meadows Course and two over Old White TPC, including the finale when Anania fired an even-par 70 for a 1-over 281 total to take home the most coveted prize in amateur golf in the Mountain State for the first time. Dad took care of driving the cart and handing his son the club after choices were made. There were occasional conferences between the two as well.
"That's all I wanted from him. A win," a proud Geno said moments after Brian holed the par-clinching putt on the scenic par-13 18th to trigger a touching celebration of hugs and kisses between son, dad and mom Dorie. "That's my Father's Day present. It's all him. He's a gutsy young man. There's going to be a big party somewhere tonight."
Geno and Dorie have walked many courses since Brian took up the game. Most recently, the Hurricane residents followed their son's career at Marshall University where he just concluded his senior year.
"It was a pretty special moment down there having my dad on the bag," Anania said. "I know he's probably more excited than I am. To have both my parents here was really special."
Anania becomes the sixth different State Am champion in the last seven years. The triumph gets him an exemption into the PGA TOUR's Greenbrier Classic scheduled June 30-July 6 at The Greenbrier.
With seven holes left, Anania and Woodward, who is from Bridgeport and plays at Wake Forest, were tied at 1-over. Anania holed a 4-foot birdie putt at the par-5 12th to take the lead for good. Woodward's drive into the hazard left of the fairway on the dogleg right 13th led to a double bogey and ended his title hopes. He was 4 over on the final six holes.
After a three-putt bogey at the par-4 14th, Anania parred in. Muscari, who just finished his career at Concord University, also had pars on the final five holes for a 1-under 69 and 283 total. Woodward posted 72 for third at 285. Anania, 22, became the youngest State Am winner since 13-time champion Pat Carter won in 1989 at age 21.
"He just grinded the entire day and hit good shots," Geno said. "He hit a few bad ones, but he scrambled and just never gave up. That's the way he plays."
Anania's mental approach worked well early when Woodward and Muscari got off to good starts.
"There was some early pressure. They made birdies before he did," Geno said. "He stayed calm. I wish I could keep an even keel like that. We talked about some crazy things.
"The one thing I kept asking him after something bad was, 'Does it get any better than this?' It was a nice Friday afternoon. The sun was shining at The Greenbrier. So what do you have to worry about? That's what I had to keep going back to."
When Anania rolled in a 7-footer for par on the par-5 17th, Geno could sense a celebration was imminent.
"I just cleaned clubs and golf balls," he said with a smile. "After that putt, I felt it."
Geno was a popular interview after the round. When asked if he'd be on the bag for The Greenbrier Classic, he said no.
"I'm too old and we can't use a cart," he said. "We'll have somebody out there that knows the golf course and golf better than dad."
Another individual excited by the outcome was Matt Grobe, who just finished his second year as Marshall men's golf coach. The way Anania played came as no surprise to him.
"He kept the ball in play and made the 6-footers when needed," Grobe said. "He makes everything."
Grobe had hoped Anania, the West Virginia Junior Amateur champion in 2009, would get an at-large pick to the NCAA Tournament, but it didn't come. Anania was a Division I PING All-Midwest Region selection. His stroke average of 72.48 for 29 rounds is the second-lowest single-season average in program history. He was medalist in the Bearcat Invitational on Oct. 8 and finished in a tie for sixth in the Conference USA Tournament. He's been a C-USA All-Academic pick two straight years.
"He deserved being in (the NCAA)," Grobe said. "This is awesome for him after the senior year he had."
Tad Tomblin and 2013 Amateur champion Sam O'Dell finished in a tie for fourth at 287. O'Dell and Anania are members at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club in Hurricane.
Anania now can focus on The Greenbrier Classic where he'll be competing against the likes of Bubba Watson, Jason Day and other tops pros.
"That's icing on the cake," he said of the exemption. "I was here to win the State Am. It's an honor to play in The Greenbrier Classic. I'm excited. It's going to be an experience like I've never had."
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