Western Amateur field has Cowboy feel to it

Published 3:58 am Wednesday, August 2, 2006

By By SCOTT NOVAK / Dowagiac Daily News
BENTON HARBOR – More than a decade later, Oklahoma State University assistant coach Alan Bratton is returning to the Point O'Woods.
Bratton brought along six members of the Cowboys' NCAA championship team to compete in the 104th Western Amateur, which began this morning.
Joining Bratton on Tuesday morning during media day was defending NCAA individual champion Jonathan Moore and first team All-American Pablo Martin.
Bratton, who is in his second season at Oklahoma State as an assistant coach, reached the "Sweet 16" three times in the early 1990s at the Western Amateur. He returns in 2006 because he feels this is the best amateur golf tournament in the country.
When asked what advice he had been giving the six Cowboys that are also in the 156-man field, Bratton said all he could do was tell some old stories.
"It's been funny, because they have been actually giving me more advice than I have been giving them," Bratton said. "Because it has been a long time since I have been here. Jonathan has played the tournament as many times as me. They just got tired of hearing my old stories about how 'this hole is so much shorter now…'"
Bratton added that it was a treat for him to return to the Western Amateur because 'the Point is as good as always. The course really has held up from what I remember anyways. They have done a good job of adding tees in places where it's as good a test as ever."
Moore and Martin, who had to withdraw from last year's Western because of muscle soreness and weakness after going water skiiing for the first team the Monday before the championship, both got in some golf on Monday and Tuesday morning.
When asked how the course compared to last year, Moore said that the Point is in the best condition he has seen it.
"The fairways are perfect," he said. "The greens are picking up speed from yesterday. The rough is good. I really can't remember from years past on whether it's different."
Jamie Lovemark, the youngest player to ever win the Western Amateur in 2005, is back and ready to try and become one of the very few repeat winners.
He will attend the University of Southern California after choosing between the Trojans, Texas Longhorns and Arizona Wildcats.
By winning the Western Amateur, Lovemark was able to compete in the Western Open earlier this summer.
"It was the most fun I have had playing golf," he responded when asked about the experience.
Lovemark felt that the course seemed softer than last year, but with the wind picking up on Tuesday and hot weather ahead, he felt it would firm up nicely.
"By the end of the week it will be a lot closer to last year," he said of the course condition.
Big 10 champion Chris Wilson of Northwestern, agreed with Lovemark that the conditions will change as the week goes on.
Both also agreed that this is the best amateur tournament around.
'This is by far the strongest field of any other tournament," Lovemark said.
As always, the 156-man field will play three days of stroke play, including 36 holes on Friday to narrow the field to the "Sweet 16."
On Saturday morning, the tournament switches to a match play format with competitors playing 18 holes in the morning and afternoon.
The semifinals will be played on Sunday morning with the finals slated for Sunday afternoon.