‘Champions trio’ unique at WV Open

July 27, 2018 GMT

DANIELS, W.Va. — For Barry Evans, Scott Davis and Harold Payne, the game has changed a bit over the years.

For the trio that came up cutting their teeth in golf in the Kanawha Valley and enjoyed lengthy days in the sun, battling it out for titles on the local, state and even national level, it has become more about enjoying the game and the competition that comes with events.

So, when the three were put together for the first two rounds of the 85th West Virginia Open championship Wednesday and Thursday on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs, there was as much focus on reminiscing as there was on golf shots.

“It was beautiful,” Payne said. “Barry has won the National Club Pro, he’s won the Open, Scott has won four Opens, I’ve won four Opens – it was just such a comfortable pairing and we had a great time. It was so special. I’m so glad the WVGA gave me that pairing.”

Payne, who like Davis plays out of Hurricane, also has five West Virginia Amateurs on his ledger.

As for this week, Evans has the edge on the other two after carding a 1-over-par 72 on Thursday to sit at even heading into Friday’s final round.

Evans is also the youngest of the three at 56 but didn’t have much time to talk afterward as he rushed back onto the course to watch the end of his son Will’s round. Will Evans fired a 5-under 66, tied with leader David Bradshaw for the low round of the day.

In recent years, Barry has put his son’s results above his own at events like this week’s and though he furiously checked the status of Will’s round throughout Thursday, he enjoyed the day as much as Payne.

“It was really cool,” Evans said. “I’ve been friends with Scott forever and Harold forever and watching Harold’s short game is something to behold. It’s like watching Da Vinci paint a painting or something. Scotty is such a great ball striker and got nothing out of today’s round. But we’re great friends.”

Evans’ title at Berry Hills Country Club in 2008 was the last Open win for the threesome with Davis’ last coming in 1998 and Payne’s in 1993.

This week marked Payne’s 47th West Virginia Open and in June, he played his 48th West Virginia Amateur. To say the least, he’s seen quite a lot of history in West Virginia over that time and some of that came pouring out Thursday.

“My first three West Virginia Opens, you know who won? Sam Snead,” Payne said. “I played in the West Virginia Open when I was 15 at Bel Meadows, when I was 16 at Sandy Brae and when I was 17, my senior year in high school, it was in the fall at South Hills and Snead won and I was low amateur. I had a chance. I was one shot from playing with Sam Snead in the last round. That would’ve been incredible but thank God I’ve got the health to do it, the desire to do it and the competitive fire to do it.”

All three players made the cut this week with Davis entering Friday at 5-over and Payne at 8-over. Everyone plus-9 and better will play on Friday.

And though there is plenty of competitiveness to the trio still (Davis was quick to bring up the low amateur award, currently being led by Ty Roush of Mason at 1-under), it isn’t strictly about results anymore.

“It’s a different perspective,” Davis said. “I used to come out and say, ‘Come on, play good and I can win this thing.’ Now I come out to see everybody and enjoy everything.

“I’m 62 years old now and we’re so lucky to be able to compete and play with all these great young players in the state. And there’s just so many good players with all these beautiful junior tours they get to play. Harold, Barry and I were thrilled to be together and reminisce about all the years. Coming down the stretch here, my career is coming to an end, and it’s just fun to be able to play and play half decent.”

SPEAKING OF EVANS: Will Evans, the son of the aforementioned Barry Evans, went low on his first nine Thursday to shoot up the leaderboard and move into the top 10. Evans got into a strong rhythm from the start, notching birdies on his first four holes to go from 2-over to 2-under in less than an hour of golf.

“I started the day 10 back, so I knew I needed to get off to a good start or at least post something in the mid-60s to even have a chance,” Evans said.

The Charleston native settled in at that point, giving one back on No. 16 — his sixth hole of the day — before making the turn with momentum after a birdie on the par-5 18th hole. Evans carded a 66, which tied tournament leader David Bradshaw for the low round of the day.

BILBY STILL RED: Ryan Bilby, a 15-year-old golfer from Follansbee, West Virginia, showed a little bit of veteran moxie to keep his score under par after two days.

Bilby, who shot a 3-under 68 on day one, briefly ascended up the leaderboard to third place Thursday after starting on the back nine and notching birdies on Nos. 12 and 15 to move to 5-under at the turn.

However, Bilby fell back to even-par after sandwiching bogeys on Nos. 2 and 7 around a triple-bogey on No. 4. He finished the day with a 73.

The Brooke High School golfer quickly got back into red numbers with a birdie on No. 8 to move to 1-under for the tournament.

Last month at the AJGA Bluegrass Junior in Ashland he notched the first-ever double-eagle in tournament history during his final round at Bellefonte Country Club.

CLARK LANDS EAGLE: Hurricane’s Jonathan Clark was not happy after a wayward drive on his second hole of the day led to a bogey that dropped him back to even-par for the tournament. Fortunately for Clark, the next hole was a par-5 and he was able to take out some aggression with his driver. He bombed the drive and found the green with his second shot before holing a putt for an eagle that set him back in motion.

On the day, Clark finished with a 73 and is at 1-over for the tournament heading to the final day.