Last October Shady Spring rising-senior Tanner Vest and Herbert Hoover graduate Bryson Beaver were the top two individual finishers for Class AA at the state high school golf tournament.
This past weekend, the dynamic duo teamed up in the W.Va Four-Ball Championship played at Glade Springs, sponsored by the West Virginia Golf Association.
Trailing by six shots after Saturday’s round, Vest and Beaver combined to shoot 11-under par Sunday to force a four-way playoff.
Facing some stiff competition, Vest knocked in a three-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole to give his team a historic win.
“Walking to the green I was all smiles. There was eight of us on the green, so it was the longest 10 minutes of my life,” Vest recalled. “I was watching everybody putt, but I couldn’t stop smiling and I haven’t stopped smiling since. Every time somebody would miss a putt, my smile got bigger because I knew I had a three-footer (for birdie). I knew I was going to make it.”
The W.Va Four-Ball format is also known as “better ball.” Both players play each hole and the best score is recorded for the team.
Saturday the young tandem struggled making just two birdies against three bogies heading to the par-5 18th hole.
However, a big drive by Beaver led to an eagle on the final hole, providing some much needed momentum, but still left the young duo well back of the lead.
“We went fishing after the round and we were arguing about who played worse and blaming ourselves,” Vest said laughing. “We both played bad, but neither of us had played much golf. We played a practice round Friday and we were joking the whole time how we would be First Flight champions.”
Although the two competed against each other in high school, a random meeting a couple of years back led to a a great friendship.
“Two years ago at the WV Amateur we were paired together and it was the first AM for both of us. We met and instantly clicked,” Vest said. “He comes and stays at my house and we hang out all the time. Our team chemistry was great. If one of us missed a putt or something, we weren’t beating each other up for it.”
Starting their day on the back nine on The Cobb Course and grouped with the First Flight competitors, Vest and Beaver got off to a hot start making four straight birdies.
“I made the first three birdies and he made the fourth birdie. Then the birdies kept falling and when we got to No. 7 tee box we realized that we actually had a shot to win the tournament,” Vest said.
When they stepped to the tee box on the par-3 seventh hole, the tandem had combined for nine birdies in 15 holes.
However, hole No. 7 was not kind to either player Saturday. Sunday Beaver got some much needed redemption for the team.
“It was probably our worst hole of the tournament on Saturday. We were both about 40 yards short of the green,” Vest said, laughing. “Beaver hit a great shot on the green Sunday. We were both reading it and really liked it. He was clutch and rolled it right in.”
Birdies on seven and eight were good enough to make the four-team play off, but a huge task was still ahead for the youngsters.
The three teams they battled in the playoff were a virtual ‘Who’s Who” when it comes to the top golfers in West Virginia.
Reigning West Virginia Amateur Champion Philip Reale and 2022 West Virginia Mid-Amateur Champion Jess Ferrell formed one team. The recent Two-Person Scramble champions, Cory Hoshor and Jeremy Vallett were on the tee along with Pat Carter and Sam O’Dell who were two-time winners of the event.
The playoff started on the 18th hole.
“Nervous and excited are two good ways to describe it,” Vest said. “We were driving the golf cart to 18 tee and we were discussing it. We figured out as a team that Pat Carter and Sam O’Dell had 17 (WV Amateur) championships to their name. Beaver said our (statistic) in the Amateur was we had four missed cuts.”
“We were joking that they were all Amateur champions and we were just kids,” Vest went on to say. “I pulled all their golf carts out because I had to work before the event. I just work (at Glade) and Beaver sits in the cart eating candy. We were literally kids. You meet the guys that you hear their names all the time and they are historic players.”
Although he admitted to being nervous, it really never showed with Vest’s third shot coming to rest three-feet from the hole, giving him a great opportunity for the win.
Not only did he have to anguish through seven other putts, he also had to deal with a little gamesmanship.
“I won’t say his name, but one guy walked by and reminded me that I had left it on the wrong side of the hole. He took a little jab at me and tried to get in my head,” Vest said, with a chuckle. “I just went up there and knocked it in. I think he understood after that, that it’s better to be three-feet on the wrong side of the hole than 20 on the other.”
Once the put dropped, Vest and Beaver did receive kudos from the veteran group.
“Some of the guys were great. Jess Ferrell and Sam O’Dell congratulated us and Cory Hosher did too. They were supportive of us,” Vest said.
Vest, 16 years old, and Beaver, 18 years old, became the youngest duo to ever win the W.Va Four-ball championship.