By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Don’t blame Jim Cragett if he’s grinning from ear to ear.
After all, not every golfer wins the biggest tournament of his life at age 63.
Cragett defeated the No. 8, 1, 4 and 3 seeds to capture the Silver championship Sunday at the 51st West Virginia Senior Amateur Championship at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke.
“I’ve been playing in the tournament every year since I turned 50,” he said. “This is as far as I’ve ever gone. I’m pretty excited.”
Cragett, who lives in Crab Orchard, defeated David Grubb of Charleston, 2 and 1, to get off to a strong start at Stonewall.
That put him into the quarterfinals against the No. 1 seed, Jim Mason of Mineral Wells.
“When I played the No. 8, I saw we were pretty well equal. I had him two holes down with one to go,” Cragett said. “But I didn’t think I could beat the No. 1.”
Cragett played well, making a lot of pars, and beat Mason on No. 17.
“That put me one up with one to go, and I tied him on 18,” Cragett said. “I had my confidence up, and that helped quite a bit.
“I said, ‘Gee whiz. If I can beat No. 1, I can play on.’”
Next up for Cragett was fourth seed Nat Ayre of Vienna in the semifinals. The match was a classic.
“It took 19 holes, and the last one I birdied,” he said. “It was quite a good match, nip and tuck all the way.”
A familiar golfer, No. 3 Ken Juskowich of Morgantown, now stood between Cragett and the championship.
While still confident, he knew that Juskowich had beaten him in a previous match.
“I’d golfed with him before, and he was on that day,” Cragett said.
“But Sunday, he caught me on a good day. I was striking the ball well and making long and short putts.”
Cragett put Juskowich down five holes with four to go to claim the prize. But beating him, as it turned out, wasn’t as much fun as some of the other wins.
“Ken is a super good guy, and the one I didn’t really want to beat,” he said. “He was the best opponent I had, as far as camaraderie went.”
Cragett grew up near the old Twin Oaks Country Club, where he worked as a caddy, but didn’t play golf seriously until he was 30.
He plays regularly at The Resort at Glade Springs, and won the club championship on the Stonehaven Course in 2007.
Cragett has also competed in the BNI Memorial Tournament several times, finishing second in the Senior Division in 2011.
“I didn’t compete this year, because I had another commitment,” he said. “I’m active locally, but not too much out of Raleigh County.”
But Cragett was able to play in the several WVGA Senior Series events, something he really enjoys.
“They’re so much fun, because it’s people my own age, people I’ve read about,” he said.
No experience was better than Sunday’s, however.
Steve Fox, who won the Senior Championship crown, and well-known golfer Harold Payne both came up to congratulate Cragett.
“It meant a whole lot when a golfer such as Steve, competitive throughout the whole state, shook my hand and congratulated me,” Cragett said. “Harold was rooting me on. It was a really good boost to know people were behind me.
“It’s great to be recognized.”
The championship made for a great birthday present. Cragett turns 64 Sunday.
“I hope to be joining my brother, Roger Keaton, and club pro Justin Beard at Stonehaven this weekend,” he said. “Justin’s always helpful, and they were both cheering for me the whole time.”
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