WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Marshall men’s golf coach Matt Grobe is likely happy with one of his team’s latest additions.
Transfer Noah Mullens, a former standout at Cabell Midland, followed up a first round of 2-under 68 on the Meadows Course on Tuesday with a 3-under 67 on the Old White TPC on Wednesday and is the leader by a stroke at the 101st West Virginia Amateur at The Greenbrier Resort.
Play will switch back over to the Meadows Course on Thursday for the third round before the tournament concludes on Friday on the Old White TPC.
Mullens used birdies on 14 and 17 and made a 10-foot par save on 18 to put himself ahead of a crowded field. First-round leader Mitch Hoffman of Poca shot a 1-under 69 on Wednesday to sit one shot back, as does Hurricane’s Philip Reale, who shot a second-straight 2-under 68.
Those three will make up Thursday’s final group.
“I’m super happy,” Mullens said. “I bogeyed the first hole — not a good bogey from the middle of the fairway — but I just put that behind me and really focused on the rest of the round.
“I made a good putt on 10 and that gave me confidence the rest of the way. I putted really good today.”
Mullens finished sixth in the West Virginia Amateur a year ago, playing in the final group on the third day before fading a bit and playing in the penultimate group for the final round.
Mullens transferred from Southern Wesleyan to Marshall this past fall and is a rising junior with the Thundering Herd.
He said he plans on using the experience from last year moving forward the rest of the week.
“That third round kind of got me last year and just being in that final group really helped,” Mullens said. “Also winning the Riverside Open [in Mason] a couple of weeks ago. That really helped.”
Hoffman’s day was a bit of a grinder, but the rising junior at the University of Charleston came up with answers when he needed them.
He bogeyed No. 8 and birdied No. 10 and after bogeying again at the 14th, hit a tee shot on the par-3 15th to within inches of the hole leading to another birdie. His tee shot on the par-3 18th was pure as well, landing within six feet of the hole and he converted, putting him one to the good for the day.
“I’d have taken it every day,” Hoffman said. “The key was trying to get the ball in the hole. Every putt I hit was a little short, but right in the heart. But I finally had a couple of birdies and saw the ball go in the hole, so that kind of helped.”
After Tuesday’s opening round, Reale said that if he could shoot 68 four times, he’d take his chances. He’s now halfway there.
Wednesday’s round was soured slightly by a bogey on the 18th hole, but it was still plenty to keep Reale right in the thick of things.
“I’ve been in control of my irons as good as I have been in a long time,” Reale said. “I didn’t drive it as well today, but I got myself in decent positions to make good shots into the hole and give myself a good look at birdie and an easy par.”
Reale was the leader heading into the final round a year ago before coming up just short in a three-man playoff eventually won by Mason Williams. That heartbreak included just missing a birdie put on the 72nd hole that would have given him the Greenbrier Trophy.
Williams shot a Meadows Course record 6-under 64 in that final round to storm from behind and win, leaving several heartbroken players in his wake. That included Reale, who said being out and, in the mix, again is a good feeling.
“I don’t know that you learn from someone shooting 64,” Reale said. “But I’m definitely playing the Meadows better than I did last year, but I can’t control 64s. But if I can keep hitting my spots, hitting fairways, giving myself opportunities, I’m fine with that.”
Behind the final group is Ravenswood’s Alex Easthom, who has overcome a 3-over-through-three-holes start on Tuesday to get all the way back to 3-under for the tournament.
Williams meanwhile, answered a double bogey at 12 and a bogey at 13 with a birdie at 15 and eagle at 17 to finish a roller-coaster round of one-over 71. He’s part of a three-way tie for fifth at 1-under with 13-time champion Pat Carter and Cam Roam, who fired the day’s best round with a 5-under 65.
Other notables included two-time amateur champion Steve Fox, who is in a tie for eighth with Ryan Bilby at even par, and Sam O’Dell, who used a birdie on 18 to shoot a second-consecutive 71 and is seven shots back of Mullens.