Anania will know course
HUNTINGTON — Brian Anania has one thing going for him at The Greenbrier Classic. The Hurricane resident’s victory in the 95th West Virginia Amateur two-plus weeks ago at The Greenbrier Resort gave him an exemption into this week’s PGA Tour stop.
Normally, when an amateur gets such a perk, he or she most likely isn’t all that familiar with the course they’ll be playing. For Anania, that’s not the case. He’s played the historic resort’s three courses — Old White TPC, Meadows and Greenbrier — since his days in junior golf.
Old White TPC, celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014, is The Greenbrier Classic’s home.
“It’s good to have my first PGA Tour event on a course I know,” Anania said. “I’ve played it so many times during my junior career and college career. I hope that knowledge can carry over.”
Old White TPC measures 7,287 yards for the $6.5 million FedExCup event and par remains 70. The winner will get $1,170,000.
The Greenbrier Classic marks Anania’s third tournament at The Greenbrier in less than three months. The Marshall University graduate helped the Thundering Herd win the first Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational in April on Old White TPC. He posted rounds of 72 and 70 on Old White TPC during the State Am he won by two shots over Evan Muscari.
This week, though, Anania goes back to the tips and that’s OK with him. The added distance comes from new tees built during several makeovers by architect Lester George to restore the course back to designer C.M. McDonald’s look in 1914. All 18 greens have been reconstructed, too.
Nerves, however, could be a different story. Players get a bit edgy when they make that trip down Magnolia Lane for their first Masters in Augusta, Ga. Anania’s made the trip past the stately Greenbrier Hotel many times, but this time he’ll be joined by the likes of Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Tom Watson and Jimmy Walker, the 2014 FedExCup points leader.
“I still don’t know the whole Greenbrier Classic thing. It all hasn’t set in yet,” Anania said. “I probably won’t sleep much. I’m sure when I start driving down there Sunday, either then or Monday it’ll really hit me.”
Brian’s dad, Geno Anania, worked the bag in the State Am and both got to ride in a cart. No carts for the pros.
Anania secured Jimmy Harrison, head pro at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club — his home course — as a caddie.
“It can get kind of crazy,” said Anania, who expects to have a large following. “The people you’ve watched and followed over the years you’re playing with now. That’s why I’m going with Jimmy. He’s somebody I know, someone I can joke around with. He can make me comfortable.”
Anania, 23, gets his first look at Old White TPC on Monday. On Tuesday, he’ll get in a practice round with PGA Tour member Charles Howell III. Howell is a friend of Harrison and has made two visits to Sleepy Hollow as guest for the Special Olympics fundraiser.
“I’ll pick his brain,” Anania said. “I’ll ask what it’s like from his side. He’s been there. What’s his way of getting there?”
“Brian will be fine,” Harrison said Wednesday while watching play in the West Virginia Junior Amateur. “He’s got a good demeanor.”
For the past few days, Anania’s attire has changed. Shelve the shorts and break out the long pants.
“I ordered some new ones,” he said with a smile. “They came in the other day. I figured I’d better get used to them.”
Anania’s practice routine hasn’t changed. He’s been at Sleepy Hollow every day since the State Am win and put in time on the range and putting green.
“You don’t change what’s worked,” Anania said. “You work to make it better.”
Sleepy Hollow has its share of long par 4s. That helps since Old White TPC has three demanding par 4s. No. 2 is 488 yards, No. 13 is 492 yards and No. 16 is 444 yards with a tee shot over water. All three dogleg right.
“I’ve hit my tee shot there (back tee on No. 16) once,” Anania said. “I was messing around. Made it over. As long as I hit my target, there’s no issues. Just a bit longer second shots.”
Jonathan Bartlett, the first State Am winner to play in The Classic, has the best showing to date. In 2010, he made it 54 holes and missed by a shot from being around on Sunday.
“I’ll be trying to go four (rounds),” Anania said. “That’s something that hasn’t been done. It would be pretty big.”
At Marshall, Anania had a 72.48 stroke average his senior year, the second best for a season in school history. He had an individual win (Bearcat Invitational) and placed sixth in the 2014
Conference USA Tournament to earn All C-USA honors. He made the league’s All-Academic team for the second straight year. The former West Virginia Junior Amateur winner helped Hurricane High win three straight West Virginia Class AAA state titles. He was medalist in 2009, beating teammate Aaron Barna in a playoff.
Anania got quite the reception when he returned to Sleepy Hollow after the State Am. He’ll have his supporters at the Greenbrier Classic led by Geno and mom Dorie.
“I get back, walked down the stairs at the club and they give you a standing ovation,” Anania said. “It’s awesome to have that kind of support from the club. It’s a really cool feeling. A ton of people have told me they’ll make the trip down.”
Anania challenged for the State Am title many times before the breakthrough in 2014. He hopes to repeat that script this week.
“I think I’ve got the game,” he said. “You try to play solid golf and not make any big mistakes. I had two doubles (bogeys in the State Am) and came back from both. That’s what killed me in the past ... bad holes, big numbers.
“Can’t have that this week.”
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