Great news for the PGA Tour and West Virginians! — well, at least Jim Justice and the folks that run The Greenbrier Resort. I n a media conference on Tuesday, Justice, along with PGA Tour chief of operations Andy Pazder, a fellow West Virginia native, announced that the pertinent parties had signed a six-year extension to keep The Greenbrier Classic on the Tour schedule through 2021.
Here’s part of the media blast
before I go on a mini-rant.
“The first three years of our contract with the PGA TOUR have been a thrilling ride,” said Jim Justice, Chairman and Owner of The Greenbrier. “The TOUR is a fantastic partner and we’re so proud and excited to announce that The Greenbrier Classic will remain a bright light on the landscape of the PGA TOUR and continue to give our fans heart-pounding tournament action for years to come. The entire state of West Virginia and the region as a whole have embraced the tournament from the very beginning. Without the passion and support of our local and regional communities The Greenbrier Classic could not have grown so quickly into one of the premiere events on TOUR.”
A West Virginian who was born and raised near The Greenbrier, Justice wanted to bring a PGA TOUR tournament to The Greenbrier from the time he purchased the resort in May 2009, believing a top-tier tournament would help restore The Greenbrier’s reputation as a five-star resort.
In just its second year, The Greenbrier Classic received several awards from the PGA TOUR at last year’s Annual PGA TOUR Tournament Meeting in December, including the coveted Best in Class among all tournaments.
“Jim Justice has shown genuine passion and commitment to not only host a PGA TOUR event, but to build one into a premier stop on the PGA TOUR,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “Through his dedicated efforts, Jim has managed to achieve his goal in just two years, as evidenced by last year’s Best in Class Award. He has turned The Greenbrier Classic into a true celebratory event during Fourth of July week. We’re obviously thrilled that Jim had a desire to move forward and extend beyond his original commitment after just three years.”
The Old White TPC Course, The Greenbrier’s original of four golf courses dating back to 1914, was designed by Charles Blair MacDonald. Following the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010, when champion Stuart Appleby closed with a 59 to tie the all-time PGA TOUR single round record and finish 22-under par, the course underwent a renovation to make it more challenging for TOUR professionals. Last year, Scott Stallings won a one-hole playoff against Bob Estes and Bill Haas after they tied at 10-under par.
“I know the players will be excited that The Greenbrier Classic will be on the schedule for years to come,” said Andy Pazder, Chief of Operations for the PGA TOUR. “The Greenbrier is one of the finest resorts in the world and provides the players and their families with a great experience to complement the tournament.”
The Greenbrier is steeped in golf history and has enjoyed considerable involvement with professional golf over the years. The Greenbrier Course, built in 1924 and renovated by Jack Nicklaus in 1977, played host to the 1979 Ryder Cup Matches as well as the 1994 Solheim Cup Matches. It also played host to a Champions Tour tournament from 1985-87. World Golf Hall of Fame member Sam Snead, the winningest player in PGA TOUR history with 82 victories, served as Golf Professional Emeritus from 1994 until his death in 2002. Tom Watson became The Greenbrier’s second Golf Professional Emeritus in 2005. The Golf Club also features a large collection of Snead and Watson memorabilia.
The players all seem to love the tournament. Let’s see — what’s their not to like? There’s a casino, a luxury resort and Justice makes sure the players are well-taken care of (especially if you’re Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and the other big names that received a check to show up). Ask anyone else what they think of the event and the answer might be a tad more varied.
I’d start with the people of West Virginia who still don’t have power or running water. Local media and residents have criticized Justice for monopolizing government resources in the recovery effort after the storm that hit he region last weekend. Well, Jim Justice himself didn’t have power until 20 minutes before he left for the media conference. So there!
Justice is lobbying for the Tour to name The Greenbrier as host for the 2017 Presidents Cup.
It seems that what Jim Justice gets, Jim Justice wants. That said, I’m guessing he’ll find a way to buy it (nothing wrong with that — call me cynical, but it’s the way the world works sometimes). I have a major piece of advice: Start building the infrastructure (i.e. accommodations for media, club reps, volunteers, fans, vendors, etc.) to host that kind of event — they have five years, so the clock is ticking.
The tournament wants The Greenbrier Classic itself to be a major event with the top players that’s covered with lots of national and international media. Well, it’s tough to make that happen unless you can house people — and sorry, but allotting 5 rooms for the press isn’t enough. Nor is providing caddies with “camping” as a housing option (and no that is not a joke — that really happened last year.)
At least one media member from a major network who decided to bail on covering it this year because a few weeks ago, he couldn’t get a phone call returned in a timely fashion re: accommodations. I was in the same boat and exhausted just about every resource and called nearly every hotel/motel within a 30-mile radius without luck (again, no water or power anywhere). So I started driving back to NYC and I was more than halfway home when I decided to make one last call. Somehow the stars were aligned, and thanks to the nice people at The Homestead Resort, I will be able to cover the great tourney.
I know I’m insane, but I turned around. Well, first, I drove 30 more miles to the Harrisburg airport to return my one-way rental, and then book and pick up a new rental car. It was worth it once I got here.
Now I realize this sounds like a lot of stupid media griping, and in some ways it is, but we need somewhere to stay in order to do our jobs — so do the caddies, clubs reps, etc. — and bring you the best coverage possible. And my larger point is that to host a big-time event, you need to be prepared to have the logistics in place to successfully do so, and besides the VIPs, there are little people to take care of, too!
It’s been a long few weeks, so I’m going to chalk up my delirious rambling to that. I’ll stop now.
On Sunday Justice praised the incredible work of volunteers who helped with cleaning up the damage on the golf course the storm left behind.
““There were 70 to 80 trees damaged on The Old White Course with more than 200 hit if you include The Meadows and The Greenbrier courses,” he said in a statement. We have had hundreds of volunteers and tournament vendors working with our staff in the clean up effort as we get ready for The Greenbrier to be thrust onto the national stage for The Greenbrier Classic. It fills me with pride to know that the people of West Virginia are donating their precious time to the tournament, while many of them are without power and dealing with damage of their own.”
He was questioned about this amazing effort regardless of those who have voiced their criticism of the tournament. He said he was hurt and “it cuts deep.”
When I mentioned to a player/caddie that Justice had managed to gather up locals to help with the clean-up of the course, the response? “Oh, really? Wow, that’s surprising since Greenbrier does absolutely nothing for the town…”
Turns out the hundreds of “volunteers” were actually mostly “employees.”
“If you can’t the volunteers, oher than our people, there may have been 50,” said Justice on Tuesday. “You know, there weren’t a thousand. There may have been 50, exclusive of our people. And by our people I mean my ball team, employees, brothers and cousins, Sporting Club people, you know. All employees that I have in all kinds of different locations. They all came and they all came because they wanted to come, but, yeah, it’s really, really been tough.”
Well, I guess it doesn’t matter who it was, but the original press release was misleading. The important thing is that the course is in tournament-ready shape and the Jim Justice Show will go on.
(Getty Images/Hunter Martin)