WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Six shots out of first place and five behind second entering Friday’s final round of the 100th West Virginia Amateur, Mason Williams didn’t have a target score in mind to get back in contention.
He did, however, have an idea of what was necessary to do so.
“I was talking to my buddies last night about how doable it was to get back in it in theory. But in theory is a lot different than reality,” Williams said. “I wanted to get off to a good start and be two under through four holes and then the chips would fall however they fell. There are two legit birdie opportunities in the first four holes, so you have to get them to get going.”
Sure enough, Williams birdied the first and second holes Friday at The Greenbrier’s Meadows Course. He went on to make five more birdies and tie the course record with a 64, moving him to 2-under par and allowing him to advance to a three hole aggregate playoff against Philip Reale and Woody Woodward — the leaders to start the day.
In the playoff, Williams worked hard to save par on the 16th hole, which kept him tied with Woodward and Reale heading to No. 17. On the 17th, the rising sophomore at Georgia Southern stuck his approach to about 10 feet and made a birdie putt for a one-shot lead.
Williams, a 19-year-old Bridgeport native, made the lead stand with a par on No. 18 to become the youngest West Virginia Amateur champion since Barney Thompson (17) won it in 1966.
“It’s one thing to tell yourself you’re one of the best players in the state and another to go prove it,” Williams said. “But I knew if I played well, I’d have a legitimate chance down the stretch. It was nice to prove it.”
Williams also made birdies on the fifth, sixth and eighth holes to shoot a 5-under par 31 on the front nine. His first birdie on the back nine came at No. 11 and was a key point in the round.
“After my first six holes, I played pretty well and kind of saw where I was,” Williams said. “But I had a birdie putt on 11 and it was a 20 footer up a ridge and down a hill. As soon as I made that putt I realized it was gametime. It was time to go. That was the moment in the round where I realized I could really win this thing.”
Reale, a Hurricane native, entered the day 2-under par and with a one shot lead. He made his lone birdie on the first hole and nearly sank a 30-plus foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to win the event as Williams looked on having just finished his round.
Woodward, also from Bridgeport, closed with a 1-under par 69 after starting the final round one shot back of Reale. Woodward didn’t record his first birdie until the 12th, but followed it up with another at 13 and his only bogey came at No. 6.
Reale and Woodward both made par on each of the three playoff holes.
Huntington’s Cam Roam began the day four shots back of Reale and was 5-under par with seven birdies through 17 holes. Needing a par on No. 18 for the win, he made double bogey and missed out on the playoff by one stroke.
That left it up to Reale, Woodward and Williams. With the latter two both from Bridgeport, there was plenty of familiarity among the group.
“It was a really special moment. I’ve played so many rounds of golf with Woody,” Williams said. “He helped teach me how to become a player, how to practice and how to work my way around the golf course. I owe a lot to Woody in that respect. We’d been texting all week that we could both play great and go low so why not go do it?
“He kind of kept me calm during the playoff. We were chatting about random stuff and it was nice to have him there. He gave me a big hug after I finished up on 18.”
With the win, Williams earned a spot in the PGA Tour’s A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier to be held Sept. 12-15.