By Cam Huffman and Gary Fauber
Register-Herald Sports Department
GRANDVIEW, PIPESTEM —
If anybody plans on keeping the Beckley Newspapers Memorial Golf Classic trophy from being covered in green once again, he’s going to have some major work to do in today’s final round.
Recent Marshall University graduate Bosten Miller followed up Saturday’s 65 at Grandview Country Club with a 67 Sunday at Pipestem Resort State Park to move to 12-under for the tournament, four strokes ahead of two-time champion Brandon Reece.
“I think I probably hit it better yesterday, but my misses weren’t too bad today,” said Miller, who is trying to make it four straight BNI titles for the Thundering Herd, after Christian Brand, now playing professionally, won the last three. “I actually had a lot of birdie putts — a lot of 10-, 15-foot putts I didn’t make — but I was happy with the round.”
Miller’s Sunday stroll through the 6,884-yard Pipestem course was a bogey-free trip, and he picked up birdies on both par 5s on the front nine, 4 and 9, as well as holes 11, 12 and 16 to finish off another solid round at the course he said he’s played more than 20 times, including a number of times on the junior circuit. He won the 2007 West Virginia Junior Amateur on the same course. The day before that tournament, playing in a Top Flite Junior Tour event, Miller fired a course-record 64.
“I know it like the back of my hand,” said Miller of the Geoffrey Cornish design. “If you hit your driver well on the back 9 — because there are a couple of holes that are close to being driveable — and then drive it well on the par 5s, you can take advantage of them. It’s not too long, so it will give you a lot of opportunities.”
Reece was 2-under 70 at Grandview for a two-day total of 8-under 136. The former All-WVIAC standout was at 3-under on the front nine thanks to birdies on Nos. 8 and 9, but a bogey on the backside added a stroke to his score.
“Not bad,” Reece said. “I left a couple shots out there, but it went pretty well.”
Summersville native and Columbus, Ohio, resident Alan Wharton had the day’s low round at Grandview with a 4-under 68. That leaves him at 7-under for the tournament, in third place and five strokes behind Miller.
Wharton, the 2008 champion, was able to leapfrog Kelly Shumate on the leaderboard. Shumate followed Saturday’s 68 with a 1-under 71.
“I hit the ball pretty good but made a couple of little costly bogeys,” said Shumate, the course superintendent at The Greenbrier, who is tied with Michael Powers for fourth at 139. “I thought I hit some good shots. I just hit a few shots over the green and couldn’t get them up-and-down. You’re going to have that.”
Shumate and Powers will be part of today’s championship flight, along with big hitter Winston Canada, who’s fifth at 141. Andrew Skeens (142), David Cassis (143) and Harry Howell (143) are the only other golfers under par, with John Handy, at even-par 144, rounding out the top 10.
Today’s flighted final round will be held on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs. Everyone will be chasing Miller, but Reece said the leader will not be on his mind.
“Just play my game,” Reece said of his approach today. “That’s all I can do. He’s going to shoot what he’s going to shoot. You can only worry about your game and what you can control.”
Miller believes that something around an even-par round today should be enough to win, and it would be a major feather in his cap.
“It would be cool, especially after I played in it for two years prior and watched Christian whip me pretty bad,” he said. “It would be really nice. I love playing in it.
“It’s probably one of the most fun tournaments to play in. The first two days, you get to play with your buddies, and you can make a lot of birdies during the first two rounds. You don’t have to grind too much, and that’s always fun.”