By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Some people might have pegged Kelly Shumate as a favorite to at least come out of the first round high among the leaders at the 33rd annual Beckley Newspapers Memorial Golf Classic.
He was playing on what used to be his home course — Brier Patch Golf Links, which made its return to the BNI after a lengthy absence. Shumate spent 10 years as the golf professional at Brier Patch, before taking his current position as director of golf course maintenance at The Greenbrier.
Golf is a labor of love for Shumate — mostly labor the last few years. The Mullens native still has plenty of talent — he shot a 2-over-par 74 Saturday, a number most in the BNI field would gladly accept. But to this former professional, it was hardly worth getting excited about.
Then again, golf is a game of repetition, and Shumate has spent more time maintaining courses than playing on them. By the time the tournament concludes Monday evening, Shumate will have almost doubled the number of rounds he has played in 2013.
“It (his round) was kind of what I expected. This is my fifth round of the year, so I wasn’t expecting too much,” Shumate said, standing outside the entrance to the clubhouse where he worked for a decade. “It was fun.”
As it is for many golfers who participate in the BNI, Shumate said the weekend is about more than playing golf. Parent and career responsibilities take precedence over the game, and the BNI provides a chance to get away from the real world.
“This is always just to get out and play a little bit and see a bunch of old friends that you don’t see much,” Shumate said.
One of those friends for Shumate is Hamp Hensley, the general manager at Brier Patch. Shumate said he talks with Hensley “every week.”
As for the course itself, Shumate simply doesn’t have the time to play it on a regular basis.
“It’s been — I couldn’t tell you,” Shumate said, trying to remember the last time he played a round at Brier Patch. “It’s been a while. I come down and help; every now and then I will hit a ball or two. But I couldn’t tell you the last time I played (a round).”
This weekend will be considerably more quiet for Shumate than last. For nearly two months straight, Shumate’s focus was squarely on making sure the Old White TPC was ready for The Greenbrier Classic, which completed its fourth year as a PGA TOUR event last Sunday.
“We had a good event. I think everybody was happy,” Shumate said. “We’re glad it’s kind of behind us now. But it went off well. Really, for six weeks (the work) was daylight-to-dark.”
Shumate will head over to Grandview Country Club today for the second round, but he is undoubtedly thankful for the chance to play Brier Patch one more time.
“This is my home,” he said. “I love this place.”
— E-mail: gfauber