The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

The BNI

August 6, 2011

Players enjoy BNI's unique format

Brand has work to do to become first-ever three-peat champ

Coming off The Greenbrier Classic, Charleston native Christian Brand said he’s going to bring a more relaxed attitude to this year’s BNI Memorial Tournament, but he will still have to put in some work if he wants to become the tournament’s first-ever three-peat champion.

After winning the West Virginia Amateur Championship in July, Brand earned an exemption into The Greenbrier Classic field where he toiled with some of the game’s best for two rounds before missing the cut. Now, with the 31st annual BNI, it’s back to the roots and back to fun.

“I look at the event as just going down there and having fun, and the golf takes care of itself,” Brand said.

At 23, Brand has already built an impressive golf resume with a standout career at Marshall University and other accolades. Becoming the first golfer to win back-to-back-to-back BNI tournaments would present another achievement.

“It would be great,” he said.

Still, Brand maintains it’s all about fun.

“It’s great to be the first to do anything, but like I said, I’m just trying to have fun, and if a win happens, that’s fine,” he said. “I’m just going to let the golf take care of itself.”

Before Brand, it was Brandon Reece who was the most recent golfer to have an opportunity to win three consecutive BNI tournaments. Reece, a 2001 Liberty graduate, won the tournament in 2006 and 2007.

Reece graduated from the University of Charleston, where he played golf, in 2007. Now, a Raleigh, N.C., resident, Reece returns each year for the BNI fun — like Brand — and the competition, too.

“It’s fun just coming home and playing with guys that I grew up with,” Reece said. “The competition is great, of course. There’s obviously some great players in the area, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to win each year. There’s no doubt about that.”

Reece, 28, is expected to be among those to challenge Brand for the title this year, and Brand is no stranger to Reece.

“I played a little bit with Christian,” Reece said. “I went to school in Charleston, and he’s from Charleston, so I got to play with him a little bit. He’s obviously a good player, so it’s going to be tough to beat him. He’s obviously playing good and playing The Greenbrier Classic.

“That’s always fun to play with people that are playing a little bit better than you to see where your game’s at.”

Brand may enter this year’s tournament as one of the tournament’s most-talented golfers to ever participate, but Reece said he’s no slouch either, playing three or four times a week, including six or seven tournaments this summer.

Both golfers said the tournament’s unique format that features three rounds over three days on three different courses makes it a worthwhile experience.

“That’s what makes this tournament so fun,” Brand said. “It’s three different courses, three very good courses and a pretty good field to go with it.”

Reece echoed Brand’s sentiment.

“It’s always exciting when you have a tournament that has three different courses on three different days,” he said. “It’s a pretty cool tournament to play in.”

While both Brand and Reece are having fun, don’t expect them to be far away from the leader’s spot, if not claiming it.

The first two rounds of the BNI will be at Pipestem State Park and Grandview Country Club today and Sunday, with the field changing courses on Sunday before the championship at The Resort at Glade Springs’ Cobb Course Monday.

— E-mail: nbrockman@register-herald.com

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