June 23rd, 2016, will be a day that lives in infamy within West Virginia history. A deluge of voluminous proportions scourged southern West Virginia, creating scars that may never fully heal. However, with an unquenchable spirit defined by love and hope, individual communities came together to establish new beginnings. Although the brutal impact of last year’s flood will continue to manifest itself, a robust optimism is taking charge.
Few localities have had a more difficult journey after the flood than White Sulphur Springs. The city’s pride and joy, The Greenbrier, took a beating as the legendary Old White TPC Golf Course was razed by the unmerciful floodwaters. The normally glowing course turned into a swamp, and after the waters receded, a wasteland formed. Damage seemed irreparable, and the 2017 edition of the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic looked to be in jeopardy.
However, due to the Herculean efforts of Greenbrier Director of Golf, Burt Baine, Director of Golf Maintenance Kelly Shumate, architect Keith Foster, and numerous others that have toiled for the past year on the grounds, the Old White TPC has miraculously returned to its majestic, awe-inspiring grandeur. Not only that, but in a testament to the pioneering spirit of the project’s managers, the restoration was also used as an opportunity to install some stylistic changes to the course design. For example, new bunkers and several added nuances have overhauled the feel of the 14th hole. Also, we may be seeing more holes-in-one than ever on the 18th, as the large, troublesome hump in the middle of the green has been removed.
The changes across the course, especially the back nine, should add to the already dramatic environment. This year’s field includes yet another exciting corp of talent, including the legendary “Lefty” Phil Mickelson, powerful driver Bubba Watson, and fan favorite, the always colorful John Daly. Developing superstar Si Woo Kim, the South Korean 21-year-old who shocked the world as this year’s Players Championship winner, will also grace the greens. Another contender is Brian Harman, who will be coming into the Classic just a few weeks removed from a mightily impressive showing at the US Open, tying for 2nd. Also, all former Greenbrier Classic champions are returning, including Stuart Appleby, Scott Stallings, Ted Potter Jr., Jonas Blixt, Angel Cabrera, and Danny Lee.
Adding to the excitement will be the immensely entertaining Wednesday Pro-Am on July 5th, where luminaries such as Willie Robertson and Jace Robertson of Duck Dynasty, country music star Scotty McCreery, and Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni will be pumping the irons.
Even if golf is not your fancy, you should still take part in the festivities. The 2017 Greenbrier Classic isn’t about golf. It’s about hope and triumph. This year’s Classic is a celebration for the fact that, while many scars are permanent, our community is rapidly healing after the flood.
The Greenbrier Classic takes place July 6th-9th. Admission is free for the first time this year, but be sure to reserve your ground badge beforehand.
– Ben Anderson. HashtagWV #91 July 2017