WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — More than most, Jackson Hill is used to earning his way in the world of golf.
Hill, of Daniels, West Virginia, and a former player at Woodrow Wilson, walked onto the golf team at Wofford as a freshman this year before COVID-19 shut everything down.
And so, when it comes to playing in the final round of the 101st West Virginia Amateur on Friday alongside 13-time champion Pat Carter, it’s unlikely that Hill will fade without a big-time fight.
“The last few years I haven’t had the greatest showings in this tournament,” Hill said. “Having walked on gives me confidence, and I’ve had some pretty good play earlier in the summer that has fed into this.”
Hill has shown as much potential to go low as anybody this week and if his back nines mirrored his front nines, he’d likely be leading by several shots.
Combined on the front nine this week, Hill is 7-under through three rounds and is 5-over on the back. On Thursday, he had it as low as 5-under stepping onto the 11th tee, but a bogey on 12 and a double bogey on 14 put a damper on things.
It was almost a mirror image of Wednesday as he started 4-under through the first five holes before eventually shooting 1-over 71.
But on Thursday, a birdie at 17 helped salvage a 3-under 67 and it has him one off the lead heading to the final day.
“My putter got hot for a while,” Hill said. “The driver was a little shaky in the first round, but righted that yesterday coming into today.
“Yesterday I was 4 under through five and then nerves got me. Learned from that and even after the double-bogey on 14 I made a heck of an up-and-down on 15 and almost birdied 16.”
A FEW BAD HOLES: Despite a quadruple-bogey nine on the par-5 fourth hole, defending champion Mason Williams is actually a shot better than he was a year ago as he will enter Friday at 2-over, five off the lead held by Carter and Alex Easthom.
“Perfect. This is exactly how I planned this thing out,” Williams joked after the round.
It’s been the case of a few bad holes for Williams this week as he has just three bogeys but also three double bogeys and the nine on Thursday.
It was an adventure to say the least, but Williams is just a year removed from overcoming a six-shot gap to claim the Amateur title.
And while another 64 on Friday will be difficult, he knows better than most that there are still plenty of holes to be played.
“Tomorrow at Old White is going to be a little different,” Williams said. “I think the scores will be broader than they were today. You can make a couple of birdies out here and Old White is pretty tough. You have to hit good golf shots all over the place.”
STILL IN CONTENTION: Carter’s three-shot giveaway over the last four holes on Thursday certainly expanded the list of players still within range of the Greenbrier Trophy.
One of those is Sam O’Dell, the four-time champion from Hurricane who has quietly carded rounds of 71, 71 and 70 to sit at 2-over, just five shots off the pace entering the final day.
O’Dell was battling some back and side discomfort entering the week and it flared up again during Wednesday’s second round. However, O’Dell said he felt much better on Thursday and that making a serious run is all about putting a few holes together at the right time on Friday.
“I just haven’t done it yet, I haven’t made enough birdies, I haven’t gotten on that stretch where you get hot,” O’Dell said. “Hopefully it’s going to happen.”
PLAYER OF THE DAY: After a couple of so-so rounds, Chris Williams rocketed up the leaderboard on Thursday with a 4-under 66, the best round of the day.
Williams has contended in the Amateur and the West Virginia Open before and he will enter Friday at 2-over, just five shots back.
But just in getting to Friday, Williams is already redeeming himself from a West Virginia Open in June in which he signed for the wrong scorecard and was disqualified.
For a former player at WVU and a consistent contender in WVGA events, it was a mental lapse and one he aims not to repeat.
“It was one of those things and I just wasn’t paying attention,” Williams, who realized the mistake on the driving range and self-reported, said. “It was just stupid, because I didn’t check it. It was my fault, but I won’t do it again.”