Jul
9
2012
Pardon the Travelin’ Circus: Congrats to the Wizard and preview of what’s to come…
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Where in the world is Jim Justice?!?

U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson, the only top-ranked player in contention on Sunday, fizzled on the back nine at the Old White and shot 40. Simpson, who led by two going into the final round, bogeyed four of the last six holes to drop to 11-under and a tie for 7th. What the heck happened? My guess is the pressure of winning quickly after his first major victory got to him. Happens to the best of ‘em.

Nationwide Tour Web.com Tour grad Ted Potter Jr. beat Troy Kelly on the third playoff hole, making a four-footer for birdie on No. 18. Now I always root for the underdog, so it was cool to see two relative unknowns go to head-to-head, not to mention Kelly is a fellow Washington native (and when I was 13 in ’96, he was 17 and I remember thinking he was like Tiger Woods because, well, he was older and definitely one of the top players in WJGA).

*Update: I meant to touch on Potter’s interesting Cinderella story. In 2004 he played on what was until recently the Nationwide Tour and missed 24 of 24 cuts. He was wildly successful on the Hooters Tour and was named Player of the Year in 2006 and 2009. He won 7 times and his career earnings totaled $595,490 (add three zeros to that figure to get a sense of how good that is on the mini tours). Last season he started with no status on any major tour and earned a spot in the Nationwide Tour’s South Georgia Classic via the Monday Quailifer, which he went on to win. That also secured him full status for the rest of the season.

Just a few months later, he won the Soboba Classic and finished the year second on the NWT money list to secure his PGA Tour card for 2012. I’d say it’s been a pretty darn good year for Mr. Potter. Well deserved. Reminder: never underestimate the Underdog.

For some reason, I don’t think the weekend was what The Chairman of The Greenbrier Classic and savior of the Resort and the town, envisioned for The Jim Justice Show. As reported by CBSSports.com’s Steve Elling, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were rumored to have each received seven figures to just show up. Both missed the cut. We’ll talk more about the whole situation later because I’ll be up all night writing a nonsensical, rambling post in my delirious state. Oh wait…

Anyway, I started my journey back to NYC this evening and just had a nice, relaxing 5-hour drive to Maryland, where I’m staying overnight. No, I decided not to sleep in my car at a truck stop this time. While I enjoyed my maiden trip to West Virginia (well, I was actually staying in Virginia and commuting an hour for several reasons), it’s kind of nice to be back in civilization, where there’s running water, A/C and power! — woot! Just kidding.

I was lucky to have all those luxuries last week, unlike most of the residents in the area, including those just down the road from The Greenbrier, which, of course, had everything up and running ASAP for the tournament. But don’t forget: Jim Justice spent millions — I mean, MILLIONS — helping the community and donating water and shelter to the locals. You want proof? Well, there were always TV cameras, so there you go.

I don’t know the the current status at Oakhurst Links, which is four miles from the resort, but on Friday, they still didn’t have power or running water. It could be worse, though. Like I’ve been tweeting the last 9 days or so, such #firstworldproblems. What’s this Oakhurst Links I speak of? Well, it’s slogan and claim to fame is “the first organized golf club in America, established 1884.” It’s a nine-hole course that is maintained as close as possible to its original condition.

Basically, you feel like you travel back to the late 1800s/early 1900s, and it’s one of the most unique experiences I’ve ever had. I went there initially on a tip to perhaps do a sidebar or something. I ended up spending the five best hours of my week there with owner Lewis Keller, who is definitely one of my new favorite people. We had a great chat where he told me about the history of the property on the porch and then he gave me a tour of the “museum.”

Okay, I’m getting carried away here, but basically, at Oakhurst, you play with hickory clubs, replica gutta percha balls, and use sand tees. How do you make a sand tee? Let’s take it over to Mr. Keller’s demo.

There’s your teaser. I’m embargoing most of the material for the piece I’m working on for Golf.com, but there’s plenty to show and lots of cool stuff to share. By the way, playing with hickory clubs was the most fun I’d had in a long time, not to mention I was by myself in the 100-degree heat at the hottest time of the day with merely one bottle of water. It was like a survival test! Just kidding. It was real golf — the way it was played in the hickory era. It was bare bones and rustic. As it should be.

Stay tuned for more on Oakhurst, the Cascades Course at The Homestead, Jim Justice, The Greenbrier and more. (Though I’m a little worried that if I write the truth and my actual opinions, I’ll never be heard from again…) I’ll be driving for most of the day tomorrow (again), but I’ll do my best to post it all sooner rather than later. I’m getting antsy because there’s so much I want to share and I haven’t had time to write!

Thanks for your patience, and again, congrats to Ted Potter Jr. Oh, one last thing — I swear, Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz is like the web.com Tour grad whisperer. Before the 2011 season he predicted the following five players would either win or have success on the PGA Tour: Jamie Lovemark, Keegan Bradley, Jhonattan Vegas, Kevin Chappell and Chris Kirk. Three of them won and another tied for Low American at the U.S. Open at Congressional. He couldn’t have foreseen Lovemark’s season-ending injury. So, before this season started, I asked Foltzy for his prognostication for the class of 2011 (or would it be 2012?). Ted Potter Jr. was one of the four or five names he gave me.

*Update: Forgot to link to the latest edition of PGA Tour Confidential.

(Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)