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Marshall's Brand to turn pro May 1

Having gotten a taste of golf on the big stage, Christian Brand is pursuing the dream of playing professionally.

Brand, the Capital High and Marshall University graduate, said he is officially turning pro May 1. His first professional tournament will be in South Carolina, and he plans a run at the PGA Tour's "Q School."

The 2010 West Virginia Amateur champion played last summer in The Greenbrier Classic, the second-year PGA Tour event. He did not make the cut, but did beat two pros and tied two others, including Rocco Mediate.

Brand had played The Greenbrier resort's Old White course many times, but not quite in such an atmosphere.

"Everybody treated me well. The media was outrageous," he said. "It was nice to see the crowd the first and second day. You really felt the support from all the West Virginians and the crowd. On the first tee there were about 10,000 people there. It was insane, to say the least."

Brand wrapped up his Marshall career in 2011, finishing with a stroke average of 73.74, a record under four-decade coach Joe Feaganes. He tied for 11th at the Conference USA championships and was invited to the NCAA regional as an individual.

He is one of many West Virginians to play for Feaganes, but not necessarily the most hyped coming out of high school.

"I didn't even try to recruit Christian, and he came as a walk-on," Feaganes said. "After his first round, I decided I was going to put him on scholarship that next semester. I think he shot a 66 the first round, down at the Pinehurst golf tournament. He had a great career."

Brand will debut in the eGolf Professional Tour, a Carolinas-based tour of about two-dozen events. He will debut at the May 2-5 tournament in the Columbia, S.C., area, at Columbia Country Club and Cobblestone Park Golf Club in Blythewood.

No matter how well he does between now and September, Brand's plans for the PGA Tour's Q School are ambitious. The pre-qualification rounds begin Sept. 13, with three more stages between then and early December.

In the final stage, the top 25 and ties win PGA Tour cards, and the next 50 plus ties earn full status on the Nationwide Tour (that structure will change after this year).

The odds are long and the entry fees are steep - successful players who come all the way from pre-qualifying could pay more than $20,000 in through the entire process.

That brings up the business part of the equation. The eGolf Tour isn't free to enter, either.

"I'm getting sponsors together," Brand said. "You can never have enough financial backing."

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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