Three area golfers finish in top 10

VIENNA – The absence of any standard bearers served as motivation for Kenny Hess and the Parkersburg golfer responded by shooting a final round 3-under par 69 during Friday’s 80th West Virginia Open.

The tournament committee assigned individuals to carry scoreboards for the last three groups of the day and Hess happened to be in the fourth group.

“I was not happy with that and that got me fired up the first couple of holes,” Hess laughed. “But I was able to get my name on the big leaderboard and left it there all day.”

After closing with a three-day total of 2-under 214, Hess not only climbed three spots in the standings on the final day and tied Charleston’s Bosten Miller for fifth place but also assured himself a spot in next year’s Coca-Cola Shootout for the West Virginia Open.

While Hess ranked as the fourth best professional in the 120-golfer field, another pair of local products etched their names in the history books.

At the age of 18, former Parkersburg High School standout Alan Cooke received the award for top junior golfer after finishing the tournament at 6-over 222. Cooke was en route to his home nearby getting ready to prepare a chicken dinner when he received a message from his sister that he was needed for the awards ceremony.

“I didn’t even know I was in the running for the low junior,” Cooke said. “I didn’t play my best, but it’s cool to get an award and be recognized.”

Cooke spent the past year honing his skills at the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy. In the fall, he will attend the University of South Carolina-Beaufort and compete as a member of the men’s golf team.

He won’t forget the support he received from the home crowd throughout the past week.

“The crowd watching was so cool -I’ve never had that before,” said Cooke, who hit the pin on his drive at the 178-yard, par 3 at No. 15 and nearly made a hole in one. “I wish I would have performed a little better, but this was so much fun.”

On the other end of the spectrum, 56-year-old Scott Bibbee of Vienna finished tied for 10th place at 2-over 218 and captured the award for best performance by a senior golfer. Bibbee started the round 1-under for the tournament but made four bogeys before making his first birdie of the final round at No. 14.

“It was hot and I was nervous to begin with,” Bibbee said. “I played pretty good, but I had two three-putts on the back nine which kind of caught me off kilter. But I had a great time and I’m happy.

“To be 56 years old and to compete with these young guys for a little bit, it’s fun. It makes me feel pretty good.”

A total of three local golfers finished in the top 10. Despite being 4-over for the tournament late in his second round, Glenville native Philip Reale caught fire with four birdies in the final round and shot a 2-under 70. For the tournament, he placed seventh overall at 1-under 215.

Just a few holes into Friday’s round, Reale saw his name appear on the main leaderboard for the top eight golfers.

“When I saw my name on that leaderboard, I knew I was in a good spot,” Reale said. “I don’t think I have ever had my name on the big board before, so that was kind of fun.

“The West Virginia State Am will be coming up in about a month and the tournament this week gives me some confidence knowing I can still compete a little bit. If I can do this same kind of performance at the State Am, there will be no complaints.”