By Pat Hanna
For The Register-Herald
It’s been quite a year for Christian Brand.
Since winning his second straight BNI Memorial championship last August, the 23-year-old Charleston golfer:
— Competed in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay in Washington state.
— Enjoyed a successful senior season at Marshall University, capped by an invitation to play in the NCAA tournament.
— Won the West Virginia Amateur Championship earlier this month at The Greenbrier by nine strokes.
— Earned an exemption, as the State Amateur champion, to play in next week’s PGA Greenbrier Classic, also at the White Sulphur Springs resort.
“I really wanted to dedicate myself and take my game to a new level,” Brand said earlier this week, discussing the past year. “Mentally I’ve become better. And I wanted to get longer and straighter off the tee and keep my short game finely tuned.”
Next week, Brand will return to the scene of his State Amateur victory, a performance that prompted many congratulatory messages.
“I’ve had a lot of support from family and friends — on Facebook, texts, e-mails — and it’s been great,” he said.
Although The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC, the venue for next week’s PGA event, was not part of the State Amateur course rotation this year, Brand does have some experience on the venerable, classic layout. He shot rounds of 70 and 68 on Old White during the 2010 State Amateur, and 71 and 70 in 2008.
Of course, Old White has undergone changes in the past year, most notably the greens, but Brand is positive going into what undoubtedly will be one of the most exciting weeks of his young life.
“Every time I enter a tournament, I go into it to win — that’s the mindset,” he said. “I’d love to be there playing all four days. I want to enjoy it and have a good time and not take anything for granted. My family will be there, and that will be special.”
On top of the support from outside the ropes, longtime friend and former Marshall teammate Bosten Miller will be Brand’s caddie at The Greenbrier Classic.
“Same stuff, same routine,” Brand said of his preparation for the PGA event. “I went to the beach last week. I’ve done some big tournaments before, and I stressed myself. This time, I’m trying to relax as well as practice and keep my game in shape.”
Brand plans to return to the BNI on Aug. 6-8 and seek an unprecedented third straight title. For the recent Marshall graduate, it will also be an opportunity to play again with several of his former Thundering Herd teammates who are expected to be on hand.
Although he has graduated, Brand says people still associate him with the Thundering Herd. And he doesn’t mind at all.
“That’s great,” he said. “I’m glad I’m able in some way to bring some press to Marshall University golf.”