(Hurricane, WV) – The skies darkened over Sleepy Hollow Golf Club just before the horn sounded to clear the course.
The final group – seven-time champion David Bradshaw and club members Chris Williams and Sam O’Dell – were on the No. 17 fairway when players and spectators were alerted to hustle back to the clubhouse.
The inclement weather that stalled play at 3:29 p.m. on Friday in the 83rd West Virginia Open Championship was only delaying the inevitable.
Bradshaw, who hadn’t won an Open since 2013, birdied No. 4 to increase his lead to four strokes and held off a charge from West Virginia University rising senior Chris Williams to win his eighth title.
“This is the 12th time I’ve contended at the Open and the 11th time I’ve been the blacksheep,” said Bradshaw, who moved to San Diego shortly after turning professional. “It’s fitting that this week we honored a guy (Brad Westfall) by wearing all black.”
Bradshaw referenced Wednesday’s first round when Open competitors honored the five-time champion by wearing black. Westfall, 52, died during a golfing trip to Hilton Head, S.C., in March.
Williams and O’Dell were local favorites, but couldn’t maintain pace with Bradshaw, who finished second behind Charleston’s Christian Brand in 2014 and 2015.
Following his three-stroke loss to Brand at Glade Springs two years ago, Bradshaw determined he would return to California and teach the game, while taking some time off from playing.
His foray into instruction ended as quickly as it started and, within a month, he won PGA Tour Canada’s The Great Waterway Classic at Loyalist Golf & Country Club.
A three-hole playoff loss to Brand at the 2015 Open at Berry Hills Country Club didn’t deter Bradshaw, who won the $200,000 Frank B. Fuhrer Invitational last month, his third Fuhrer crown.
His take was $40,000.
Then came his eighth Open crown, a total second only all-time to World Golf Hall of Fame member Sam Snead, who won 17.
Bradshaw’s eighth title in 13 years was sparked by a birdie on No. 4 that extended a two-stroke lead to four with the help of bogeys by Williams and O’Dell.
“There were a lot of holes that were gettable on the backside,” Bradshaw said. “There are no leads that are comfortable until the ball’s in the hole. You could shoot a low number on the back … I didn’t, but neither did they.”
Alum Creek’s Tad Tomblin, whose first-round 66 propelled him to the lead, was 1-over on Friday, but finished by a stroke ahead of Fincastle Country Club member Garland Green, O’Dell and Williams by virtue of a 35-foot birdie putt on No. 18.
There were two players on Friday shoot under par – Hurricane’s Harold Payne, a member of the West Virginia Golf Hall of Fame – who was 2-under; and Kermit’s Davey Jude, who shot 1-under.
Payne, a lifelong member of Sleepy Hollow, was the focus of many onlookers, who watched the tournament’s No. 18 – the course’s No. 9 – under the protective cover of the patio roof.
Other fan favorites were Williams and O’Dell. O’Dell birdied No. 16 with a long putt, but bogeyed Nos. 17 and 18.
Williams was 1-under after 14 holes, but had a bogey, double bogey and bogey on 15, 16 and 17 respectively to finish at 211.
“On the front nine, I made a couple silly mistakes,” said Williams, who switched to a TaylorMade M1 driver, which sparked a noticeable improvement in distance on Friday. “I missed some greens and a few short putts. I got it to 2, then missed a short birdie putt on 14. Had a few bad shots coming in. I didn’t finish very strong.
“Overall, David played great. I’m pretty happy. It was a fun week.”
His missed birdie putt on No. 14 would have given him back-to-back birdies and closed him to two strokes behind Bradshaw. Bradshaw birdied No. 11 and followed by a bogey.
By the time he rolled in a par putt on No. 16, he was four strokes ahead shortly before the bad weather rolled in.
When it rolled back out, the finish was a formality.
Vienna’s Alan Cooke, the winner of the State Amateur earlier this summer, tapped in a 6-inch putt to finish his round when play resumed at 4:45 p.m.
Bradshaw had a birdie putt come up 4 inches short on 18, but he opted to mark his ball instead of tapping out – a fitting end for the second-winningest Open player ever who would be the last player in the field to hit a ball.
“I’ve missed this,” Bradshaw said. “It’s cool to be a part of history. I’m not going to get rich doing this, but I’ll probably be remembered anyway. Maybe that’s worth more.”
By RICH STEVENS