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13-year-old ready for challenge at W.Va. Amateur

Aug. 05, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- If Josef Dransfeld of Huntington is a bit nervous as he steps up to the first tee Monday, it's understandable. At 13, the eighth-grader at Our Lady of Fatima School is the youngest player in the 94th West Virginia Amateur Golf Championship at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

After Dransfeld climbs the steps, he'll be on the scenic, tree-lined par-4 No. 1 hole on Old White TPC.

The elevated tee is next to the clubhouse where spectators or passers-by can stand or sit in the porch area and watch players start their rounds at the home of the PGA Tour's Greenbrier Classic.

"Play hard, play my game and keep my head," Dransfeld said of his goals for the Mountain State's premier amateur tournament. "I'm going to try make the cut and play the last two days."

Dransfeld earned his place in the 100-player field by tying for eighth in the final State Am qualifier held July 29 at Bridgeport Country Club. He shot a 4-over 76.

"I wanted to be the youngest ever to qualify," Dransfeld said. "I thought I'll give it a shot and see what happens."

Dransfeld is a force in junior golf in West Virginia along with Colin Bowles of Oceana, who also is in the State Am field and paired with Dransfeld for round one. Dransfeld won the 13-14 division in the West Virginia Junior Amateur held July 15-16 at Locust Hill Golf Club in Charles Town. The two see one another often at Callaway Junior Tour events and occasionally at tournaments on a bigger stage such as the AJGA.

Bowles, who's closer to 14, qualified for the State Am by shooting 70 in the qualifier at Lewisburg Elks.

"It's nothing new for us," Dransfeld said. "It's me and him on a bigger stage. When I saw him in, I wanted to make it, too."

The par-70 Old White TPC will measure 6,900-plus yards. That means hitting hybrid clubs into some of the par-4 holes and possibly some of the par-3 holes as well.

"It doesn't bother me," Dransfeld said of distance issues. "Play your game and don't worry about anybody else."

Dransfeld started on the back at Bridgeport and shot 38. He made double bogey on the par-4 11th (No. 2), but came right back with a birdie on the next hole.

"If I'm playing good, I knew I could do it for sure," Dransfeld said. "I blocked out the bad hole and came back with the birdie. I did a little fist pump. Then I had to calm down, relax and bring it home."

A chunked gap wedge from 80 yards out on the par-5 18th (No. 9) led to a bogey. That gave him another 38 for 76. Then he had to play the waiting game to see how the score would hold up.

Once play was complete, the six players who shot 77 had to go back out for a playoff. Dransfeld had made it. He had a smile on his face as he stepped up to get the State Am packet from a West Virginia Golf Association official.

"I was really happy," Dransfeld said. "My mom (Sue) was super happy. I thought, 'I'm going to The Greenbrier.' It felt good."

Thanks to social media, Dransfeld got congratulations from family, friends and golfers around the state including members at Guyan Golf and Country Club, his home course.

The Callaway Junior Tour's first event in 2013 was on the Meadows course at The Greenbrier. Dransfeld was medalist in his age group with a 1-under 69.

Dransfeld's dad, Hans, will be his caddy. The two got the first look at Old White TPC and Greenbrier course in practice rounds Saturday and Sunday. It's the first time Dransfeld had played either course.

"I want to see how balls react on the greens and the speed," he said. "I'll do a lot of work on the short game and putting. They'll be key for me."

Tee time Monday for Dransfeld is 11:18 a.m. In addition to Bowles, the third member of the group is Camden Moore (15). They're playing behind Tom Spriggs, reigning West Virginia Senior champ Steve Fox of Huntington and current Junior Amateur champion and Marshall University recruit Will Evans of Charleston.

Spriggs got in after 2012 winner Pat Carter of Huntington withdrew to be with his son, Hogan, at the Little League Baseball Southeast Regional in Warner Robins, Ga. Hogan Carter plays for West Virginia champion Barboursville.

"I'm hitting where the big names have played," Dransfeld said, referring to the likes of pros Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and 15-time State Am winner Bill Campbell along with Carter. "I never thought about it until now."

Dransfeld's classmates at Fatima will be in school while he's walking around Old White TPC and the Greenbrier course. The 2013-14 school year begins this week.

"That's OK," he said of missing the first few days.