The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

July 31, 2012

Tradition takes on a new look for Mays family

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Mike Mays knows a thing or two about golf on the grounds of The Greenbrier resort.

The Beckley native first qualified for the West Virginia Amateur in 1987, and before this year, he’s only missed two since. He finished seventh in 2009, and he always seems to be in the mix.

So when Mays’ 22-year-old son, Nicholas, shot a 2-under-par 70 at Glade Springs earlier this month to win the qualifier and earn a spot in the 93rd West Virginia Amateur, which began Monday on the resort’s Greenbrier Course, he knew exactly who to choose as his caddie.

“He’s been here for as long as I’ve been alive — 20-some years,” said Nick of his father, also a six-time winner of the BNI Tournament, hosted by Beckley Newspapers. “So he has a great knowledge of the course from being here every year. It’s just the little things that make the biggest difference.”

There was only one problem. Still capable of competing with anybody in the tournament, Mike wanted to swing the clubs, not hand them out.

A new job, however, changed the elder Mays’ schedule, so instead of playing for four rounds, he decided to carry his son’s bag for the first trip around.

“It’s tough to not get to play,” Mike admitted. “But I was thrilled to get to caddy for him. It was a privilege. I told him I’d just stay out of his way and wait for him to ask me for advice. When he pulled a club, I told him that was the club, and he didn’t pull many bad clubs.”

It was a reversal of roles for Mike, who has had Nick carrying his bag in past West Virginia Amateurs, including the strong finish three years ago.

“He read all the putts, because I just can’t see any of them anymore,” said Mike. “After a couple holes, I saw it going the opposite way, and he was dead on. So I started trusting him. I think we only misread a couple putts. We finished in the top 10, and if it hadn’t been for his eyes, we never would have done that well.”

On Monday, though, Mike was the one providing the advice, while Nick had to follow through on his father’s tips.

“It feels different, that’s for sure,” said Nick. “It’s comforting sometimes, but sometimes we butt heads, too.

“Hopefully it’s the first of years to come.”

Mays’ round on Monday was typical of a young golfer in a difficult event. He started 5-over after seven holes, with a double bogey on No. 4 followed by three straight bogeys, but he birdied No. 8 to get back on track.

He was 3-over on the back nine before chipping in for birdie on the par-3 17th, drawing a fist bump from his father and allowing him to finish with a 7-over 79.

“It was OK,” said Nick of the round. “I could have putted better, but I wasn’t too keyed in on the speed yet. I think that was (due to) my lack of putting this morning. I should have putted more.”

“He was a little bit tentative on some putts,” his father agreed. “He left a couple short that typically he wouldn’t. But he’ll get it dialed in the next couple of days.”

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While Mike did his best to provide his son with some tips, he explained that nothing can replace actual experience on the course.

“It means a lot,” he said. “The players that have played up here for years — like Pat Carter and myself — it’s almost like coming home. When you’ve played as many rounds as we have up here, there aren’t too many shots we’ve never had — the good, the bad and the ugly. We know where the pins are going to be, and not much has changed about the golf course.

“It’s typical Greenbrier resort golf. It was in great condition.”

Nick gained the experience of 18 holes on The Greenbrier Course Monday, but he’ll be facing another new challenge today, when the action moves to the Old White TPC, the home of The PGA TOUR’s Greenbrier Classic.

“I think he’ll see some shots coming into the green that aren’t going to be as receptive,” Mike explained. “He’s going to have to allow for a little runout. If he just stays with the same yardages, he’ll probably be OK. I don’t think it will stop or come back on him.”

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The father and son weren’t the only Mays family members at The Greenbrier Monday. Following the group shot-for-shot was 76-year-old Harold Mays, Mike’s father and Nick’s grandfather.

“I’ve followed this guy for 25 years,” said Harold, pointing to his son after completing the trek on No. 18. “I’ve walked a lot of miles on this golf course, and the Old White, too.

“I’m so proud of (Nick), and it’s an honor for me to be here. I still play a lot of golf, but I’m not as competitive as I used to be. But it’s just an honor to be (at The Greenbrier). This is hallowed ground.”

As much as the grandfather enjoyed watching his son and grandson make the walk together, he’s not convinced that Mike is content just carrying the bag.

“I know (Mike’s) biting nails, because he wants to be (playing), too,” Harold said. “But it just didn’t work out this year, because he changed jobs a couple of months ago. But he’ll be back, and he’ll be competitive.”

— E-mail: chuffman@

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