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Brand wins 89th West Virginia Open

ROANOKE, W.Va. — Christian Brand got Friday’s final round going with three consecutive birdies on the front nine en route to securing a three-shot victory over 12-time winner and defending champ David Bradshaw after finishing at 10-under par to claim the 89th West Virginia Open championship held at Stonewall Resort.

Brand and Bradshaw entered the final 18 holes having carded consecutive rounds of 69. However, Brand earned his third career title by shooting a 68 as Bradshaw’s 71 put him at 7-under for the event and four strokes ahead of West Liberty golf coach Thadd Obecny.

Cabins’ Nick Fleming and Hurricane’s Sam O’Dell tied for fourth at 1-under par and were the only other players in red.

The remainder of the top 10 featured a three-way tie for sixth at 3-over with Hurricane’s Brian Anania, Weirton’s Howie Peterson and Huntington’s Cam Roam. Parkersburg South graduate and pro Kenny Hess shot even par for the second straight day and joined Christian Boyd of Charles Town in a tie for ninth at 4-over.

More importantly for Hess, who said he’s leaving Sunday morning to head to Pittsburgh for the Frank B. Fuhrer Jr. Invitational, he finished third as a pro.

He entered the final round two strokes behind Morgantown’s Cory Dillinger, who shot a 77 and finished at 7-over.

Bradshaw was the top pro followed by Obecny and Hess. The payouts for the top three pros were $8,000, $5,000 and $3,500.

“I’ll get to see David in that again up there and Thadd will be up there,” Hess said of facing some stiff competition in Pittsburgh. “At one point in the day he (Dillinger) had me by five shots then he makes a triple (on No. 11) and had a double coming down on 18 and I had birdie on 18 to clinch it by a couple.”

Hess entered the week dealing with an illness, but things continued to get better throughout the tournament.

“I hit it a lot better,” added the 2020 W.Va. Open champ. “Today was definitely the best round of golf I played. I just didn’t make enough putts.

“I hit a lot of shots to 15, 20, 30 feet and they were good shots, but you don’t make putts from those distances very consistently. Got to hit it closer.”

Hess also noted his iron play finally came around a little bit this week and he feels like he’s heading in the right direction.

“I think I know what I have to do mentally with the woods to hit them straight,” quipped Hess. “It’s always changing. There’s always a different thought process to see what works.

“There’s a lot of money, and that’s where I can walk out with a big check up there if I play really well. Considering that and how I finished and making $3,500 is a heck of a week.”

Gilmer County graduate Philip Reale had his best round on Friday with a 2-under 70. He finished in a tie for 12th at 7-over.

Only three other area golfers made the cut following Thursday’s second round.

Parkersburg Country Club member Michael Koreski tied for 37th at 17-over. Fellow amateur Alex Easthom, a Ravenswood graduate, was a stroke behind and tied for 41st while Roane County pro Cole Moore had an 84 on Friday and finished in a tie for 54th at 23-over.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever done it,” noted Easthom, who has one year left at West Liberty, of shooting three consecutive rounds with the same score (78). “The swing was pretty good for the most part. I had some blunders.

“It sucks to come into a course like that making a new move. Any bad swing is going to cost you two shots. I really, like looking back on it, I don’t know if I hit a ball into the weeds this week and found it.”

Overall, Easthom was fairly content testing out his new swing and the results he had.

“It’s not that I made bag swings. The golf swing was pretty close to being there,” added the 2021 Mountain East Conference Player of the Year. “It’s still got some work obviously, but it’s getting there.”

Up next for the 2018 W.Va. Junior Amateur champion is a trip to Mississippi and the Hattiesburg Country Club for the Magnolia Amateur on July 8-10.

“I went down last year and I played a bad first round and played a real good second round and missed the cut by one,” admitted the Hilltopper. “I feel pretty good about it.”

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