Poca’s Mitch Hoffman and David Scragg have played a lot of golf together, dating back to their high school days with the Dots and now in their college years at the University of Charleston.
But in addition to being two years apart with Scragg being Hoffman’s senior, the two couldn’t be much more different.
It’s reminiscent of the odd couple with Scragg’s boisterous and outspoken Oscar Madison pairing with Hoffman’s reserved Felix Unger.
However, what they do have in common is a lot of game and some plenty of competition between themselves.
“I absolutely love playing with Mitch, we play just about every round of golf together,” Scragg said. “I think because we’re different, my game benefits his and his benefits mine. I don’t hit it very long but most of the time I hit it straight and he’s a ball striker. I rely on getting it up and down and my game plan is to hit it to the middle of every green and his is to go flag hunting. Sometimes it’s good for him to get me to be more aggressive and sometimes it’s good for me to back him off and convince him he doesn’t have to attack every flag.
“And from a competitive standpoint I absolutely love to beat him. And he’s the same way. But I also like to see him play well and I’m sure it’s the same way with him too.”
Scragg got the better of Hoffman at the West Virginia Open a month ago, finishing at 1-over and missing low-amateur honors by a stroke.
But through one day of the Amateur, it’s Hoffman with the commanding lead between the two at 3-under with Scragg settling for a 5-over 75. Score one for the tactician over the scrambler.
“We’re really competitive too,” Hoffman said. “You’re always rooting for the other, but you hate to lose to them too.”
Usually the two partake in a small, friendly wager, but this week, Scragg saw the writing on the wall with Hoffman’s game and may have saved himself some cash.
“He didn’t make me any bets, he wasn’t playing too well coming in,” Hoffman said.
“I saw him swinging it coming in and I know better this time around,” Scragg added. “It’s been a struggle for me to find something the last couple of weeks. I saw him on the range yesterday and yeah, there was no chance.”
Harold Payne began his 50th and final West Virginia Amateur on Tuesday with a red-hot start, birdieing his first three holes and getting as low as 4-under before fading a bit on the back nine to finish with a 5-over 75.
One of his playing partners, Steve Fox, is competing in his 53rd and fired a round of 1-under 69 to sit *.
But more than that, the two are brothers-in-law and have shared over a half century of golf with Payne claiming five Amateur titles and Fox two.
Needless to say, the beginning of Tuesday’s round was fairly emotional.
“I’ll probably choke up now,” Fox said. “We got on the first tee and were thinking about it and then Harold’s wife surprised him and he broke out into tears and I broke out into tears. I’m sitting there hitting the first shot with my eyes full of water and the hair on my arms sticking up.
“Harold and I have played golf for 55 years together, just to be able to be out here with him and share it with, it’s just a great feeling.”
One of the storylines coming into the tournament was the appearance of Hurricane’s Jonathan Clark, a former pro and two-time champion of the West Virginia Open before regaining his amateur status on Monday.
Clark struggled a bit on the scorecard, shooting a 6-over 76 that included a birdie on No. 18. It had been over two years since the 46-year-old had played a tournament round, but he said it was rust more than nerves that got the better of him on Tuesday.
“All-in-all I hit the ball well enough that in my mind I think I should’ve shot even par,” Clark said. “It wasn’t nerves, it was sort of focus and getting yourself there.”
Unlike the Open where Clark has had so much success over the years, the Amateur is four rounds, not three. That gives Clark an entire extra day to try and claw his way back into contention.
“Guys are going to shoot 3-under or whatever but four rounds, there’s a long way to go,” Clark said. “That’s the only good part, but the bad part is I know I have to play good tomorrow. All I’ve got to do is play better than I did today and I’ll be alright. I need a good round tomorrow.”
Four-time Amateur champion Sam O’Dell was playing alongside Clark on Tuesday and finished with a round of 1-over 71.
But O’Dell was far from disappointed with that number considering a few days ago, he wasn’t sure he’d play at all.
O’Dell woke up on Friday with discomfort in his left side, a condition that plagued him all that until Monday night. He said an ice regiment and a lot of stretching seemed to do the trick on Tuesday though and that his health is nearly back to 100 percent.
“I was probably 90 percent,” O’Dell said. “Ice every 20 minutes and in between I was just stretching and man, it’s way better. I’m excited now. I just wanted to play.
“Today, honestly, it didn’t affect me too much. My bogeys were around the green or had nothing to do with full swings.”