W.Va. Am ready for center stage

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -Alan Cooke figures his wild card should keep him in contention for this week’s 95th West Virginia Amateur Championship.

The 19-year-old golfer reported for his team’s practice at South Carolina University-Beaufort on Jan. 13. At that time of year, golfers up north were still chipping the ice off their clubs.

“That’s a huge advantage for me because I got to start playing so early,” Cooke said. “Plus, the Amateur is so early this year- usually it’s in late July.

“I’ve been either practicing or playing every day, so hopefully the cards are in my favor.”

The West Virginia Am begins at 8 a.m. today at The Old White course. Wednesday’s second round and Thursday’s third round shift to the Meadows Course then returns to The Old White for Friday’s final round.

The field consists of 100 golfers, including a dozen who call the Mid-Ohio Valley their home (Michael Koreski, Parkersburg; Alex Schreckengost, Mineral Wells; Mike Lewis, Parkersburg; Ollie Fankhauser, Vienna; Mitch Roush, Mason; Austin Root, Williamstown; Trent Roush, Mason; Matt Moore, Elizabeth; Richard Moore, Spencer; Travis Woodford, Glenville; and Cole Moore, Spencer).

“I like the Old White quite a bit,” Cooke said. “Their greens are not as fast as The Meadows.”

Last summer, Cooke kept pace with the veteran crowd while earning honors for the low junior score at the West Virginia Open played on his home course at Parkersburg Country Club then secured a spot in the final group on the last day of the West Virginia Am by shooting rounds of 71, 67 and 74.

After being the only individual to shoot in the 60’s the first three rounds at the West Virginia Am, Hurricane’s Sam O’Dell owned a nine-stroke lead entering the final day before Cook closed the gap to six with 15 holes remaining. O’Dell, however, was steady on the back side and parred all nine holes to clinch the title. Cooke finished 11 strokes back and sixth overall.

Cooke’s top-15 finish automatically qualified him for this year’s West Virginia Am. The previous year, he didn’t qualify for the tournament. Quite an improvement for someone who was named to the NAIA Ping All-South Region Team as a freshman.

“I feel confident; I feel ready,” Cooke said. “I’m playing as well as I have ever played. It’s just exciting to be here and I can’t wait to get going. I want to play now.”

Keeping Cooke company as his caddy will be his father, Matt. Alan Cooke puts a lot of faith in his father’s ability to read greens.

“It’s always fun talking to him during the round,” Alan Cooke said.