Carter mixes with pros
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Huntington amateur Pat Carter played one of his most memorable rounds of golf Tuesday and he's still two days away from teeing it up officially in the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic.
Carter, who works in the insurance business, stepped to the first tee on the Old White TPC course at 7:30 a.m. for a practice round. He got into the event by exemption thanks to winning the 2012 West Virginia Amateur on the Old White TPC and Greenbrier courses at The Greenbrier Resort. Carter has won that title 13 times, two behind all-time leader Bill Campbell of Huntington.
Joining Carter for the practice round were PGA Tour player Charles Howell III, someone Carter got to know when they competed in the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pa. Tour player Wes Short Jr. rounded out the threesome.
"This is so much fun," Carter said. "The guys made me feel comfortable right from the start. It's something to be this close and see how they play."
Jimmy Harrison, the pro at Sleepy Hollow Golf Club in Hurricane, served as Carter's caddy. Harrison is also a friend of Howell, who's made two appearances at Sleepy Hollow as guest pro for the Special Olympics fundraiser. That connection helped set up the pairing.
Carter, 45, said distance is his top concern heading into The Greenbrier Classic that begins Thursday. Several times Tuesday he hit hybrid clubs into par fours and used a hybrid on some of the par threes. He needed three shots to reach both par fives while Howell and Short got home or close to the green in two on Nos. 12 and 17.
"Those guys definitely have the advantage," he said. "I've got to keep the ball in the fairway."
Carter has one of the best short games and putting strokes in West Virginia and he knows both will have to be on come Thursday.
"I putt and chip as good as any of the guys here," he said. "I've got to play my game, not get caught up in watching the other guys."
Harrison said he enjoyed serving as caddy for Carter and getting to visit with Howell again.
"What a great way to spend the day," Harrison said. "I get to poke fun at him (Howell) a little bit. I hate to see it come to an end."
Howell and Short had words of encouragement for Carter.
"He just has to do what he's done," Howell said. "Obviously he played good golf to get here. It's no different. It's still golf. He'll be fine."
"He has to play his own game," said Short, 49, who battles back problems and has made just three cuts in 11 events in 2012. "That's the reason he's here. I like what I saw."
This is Short's first visit to The Greenbrier and he picked up valuable advice from Carter during the round. Landing areas for drives and where to attempt to put the ball on the greens led the list.
"I learned things from him," Short said. "Where to go and not to go. It was a big help."
The highlight of the round probably came on No.16, a par-4 where players must carry water to make the fairway. Howell had just secured a new Callaway driver to test. His caddy advised it was 300 yards to carry one of the red stakes on the opposite side of the lake. Two of his three drives carried the water by a good 20 yards.
"What can you say?" Carter said. "That's just plain impressive."
Howell, though, was more focused on the greens. "You learn the speed and how the ball reacts," he said. "In the rough you want to see how the ball comes out."
Carter learned his tee times for Thursday and Friday. He goes off No. 1 Thursday at 9 a.m. In round two, it's No.10 at 2:10 p.m. He's one of two amateurs of the field. The other is Michael Sims, the 2013 Haskins Award winner as the top collegiate player in the country.
Darrick Lewis will be on Carter's bag Thursday.
The Herald-Dispatch welcomes your comments on this article, but please be civil. Avoid profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, accusations of criminal activity, name-calling or insults to the other posters. Herald-dispatch.com does not control or monitor comments as they are posted, but if you find a comment offensive or uncivil, hover your mouse over the comment and click the X that appears in the upper right of the comment. If you do not want your comment to post to your personal Facebook page, uncheck the box below the comment.