ROANOKE, W.Va. — Before the start of the 89th West Virginia Open, Christian Brand made it known to those responsible for choosing tee times from the West Virginia Golf Association that he’d prefer to play with David Bradshaw.
Brand, who played at Marshall before going on to earn his card to play on what was then the Web.com Tour, has twice won the Open, leaving him 10 short of Bradshaw’s 12 titles in the state’s crowning annual golf event.
“I like to know where I’m at,” Brand said. “He’s been the barometer and he’s won however many, 350 or 360 West Virginia Opens it seems. If you want to know where you’re at, you have to play with him and see what he’s doing.”
Perhaps it’s only fitting that Brand and Bradshaw are tied for the lead at 6-under par after the second round of the 54-hole tournament at Stonewall Resort’s Palmer Course as both golfers carded a 69 for the second straight day.
“I’ve hit it pretty well for 36 holes,” Brand said. “I haven’t quite made the putts that I usually make and that’s usually a strong part of my game. But if I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I’ll be just fine tomorrow.”
The pair of 69s leave Brand and Bradshaw three shots clear of Thadd Obecny, who is in solo possession of third place after he followed an opening round 68 with a 1-over 73 Thursday morning.
No other golfer enters Friday’s final round under par, though Sam O’Dell, Christian McKisic and Mason Kidwell remain within striking distance at even par. It was somewhat of a mixed bag for that trio Thursday, with O’Dell shooting 71 to finish as one of four players under par in the second round.
“Today, we got it going and nobody said too much. We knew we had it rolling,” O’Dell said. “It’s hot. The setup is out there today if the wind doesn’t blow much and the course is great and in good shape. I feel like I’ve thrown three or four shots away both rounds, but I’d probably take where I’m at coming into the tournament.”
McKisic, a Buckhannon native, was even for the second straight day, while Kidwell, who recently wrapped up a strong career at Shepherd, lost hold of his lead and fell back with a 5-over 77 one day after setting the pace with a 67.
O’Dell, in search of his first West Virginia Open title, shot a bogey free 34 on the front nine. After making consecutive bogeys on holes 10 and 11, O’Dell made six straight pars before rolling in a lengthy birdie putt on the par-5 18th to conclude his day.
Still, the Hurricane native knows he’ll need to be at his best Friday to have a chance at catching Brand and Bradshaw, whom despite recording the same score for a second consecutive day, went about it in far different ways.
“Golf is a game of momentum, and us riding in the cart together, we were kind of battling for sure,” Bradshaw said. “There’s no doubt about it. He played well and he played better than me, but I got away with a few, so whatever.”
For the second straight round, Brand carded four birdies around a lone bogey to shoot 69. The mishap Thursday came before any of the birdies as Brand began with two pars, but missed the green with his approach shot on 11 and failed to save par from about 5 feet.
In response, Brand, of Scott Depot, made birdie on two straight holes — capitalizing on the par-5 12th and rolling in a putt from inside 10 feet on No. 13 to get under par for the first time in the round.
Brand made another birdie on No. 15, and despite not taking advantage of the par-5 18th, he followed it with a birdie on the first hole to get to 3-under in the round.
The steady Brand finished his day with seven consecutive pars.
“We signed up for a crazy game. There’s a lot of variables in golf,” Brand said. “All I can do is keep hitting it in the fairway, keep hitting it on the green, keep hitting putts where I’m looking and we’ll add them up at the end.”
On the other hand, Bradshaw overcame trouble after a long tee shot on the par-3 10th hole when he saved par by chipping in from a few feet off the green. After making bogey on No. 11, the Harpers Ferry native’s tee shot on the par-5 12th went right and found the high grass, though Bradshaw was able to again escape trouble after he punched out and made par.
He followed that with a birdie on the par-4 13th, then made par on four straight holes before taking advantage of the par-5 18th with his second birdie of the round.
Seizing the momentum, Bradshaw made birdie on the first and third holes to get to 3-under par for the round.
“I try not to think of golf as a game of swings, but it totally is,” Bradshaw said. “You try to play each shot individually, but it doesn’t always really work that way. You get away with a couple, it gets you going a little. The chip in on 10 was big, but then I gave it right back on 11. The best was the up and down on 12, because I was like, ‘I’ll focus in.’”
He then nearly found trouble on the par-5 fourth hole when his second shot went well left and hit off a tree. Somehow, it avoided the high grass and ended up on the tee box of the fifth hole, allowing Bradshaw to reach the green on his third shot.
The former Shepherd star then rolled in a lengthy birdie putt to give him four birdies in five holes.
Bradshaw wasn’t as fortunate on No. 5. After hitting his tee shot left and into the rough, his second shot sailed long and came to rest in a tough lie. Bradshaw’s par attempt on that hole left him with a tricky 6 foot breaking putt that didn’t fall, resulting in a double bogey.
“Tee to green is hard,” Bradshaw said. “The greens are small. The fairways are generous, but if you’re off a little bit, you can get in the bad stuff real quick.”
Bradshaw did, however, rebound to birdie the par-5 seventh after a chip on his third shot left him with a putt of about 3 feet. He nearly rolled in a lengthy birdie putt on No. 8, but settled for par to finish his day.
Outside of Brand, Bradshaw and O’Dell, only Huntington’s Cam Roam was under par Thursday. Roam finished with a 70 that left him 1-over par and in a two-way tie for seventh place.
Five golfers enter Friday’s final round tied for ninth at 2-over par: Tyler Shamblin of Elkview, Nick Fleming of Cabins, Ryan Bilby of Follansbee, Cory Dillinger of Morgantown and Howie Peterson of Weirton.
Brand, Bradshaw and Obecny will play together in Friday’s final group starting at 10:54 A.M.
“I put a big onus on this week and I wanted to play well,” Brand said. “Here I am, so just have to keep going and have 18 more holes to win it.”