Woods, Mickelson help sell out Greenbrier Classic

Ol’ Greenbrier East High School girls and boys basketball coach Jim Justice is a large man with a large appetite for publicity. His girls team won the Class AAA state championship this past season. But that accomplishment isn’t what put Coach Jim on the sports map.

[cleeng_content id="923938785" description="Read it now!" price="0.15"]In 2009, Justice bought the faltering-in-its-resort-tracks Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs. The place had history all right. And it had opulence like most of us will never experience and likely won’t even see from a passing automobile.

A panoramic view of the picturesque Old White course at the Greenbrier Resort.

The towering resort hotel. The four golf courses. The spa, and horses for riding through shaded trails. The over 6,000 acres that came with the place.

The mighty Greenbrier needed a benefactor. And Coach Jim came to its rescue. The all-time winner on the Professional Golf Association tour, Slammin’ Sammy Snead, represented The Greenbrier while an active player and then as its pro-emeritus after he retired from actively playing the circuit.

But the years had started to catch up with the place. The Kennedy’s didn’t come around any more. The fabulously rich took their moving and shaking elsewhere.

The debts were piling up. The creditors were lining up. Many full-time workers were let go. And then Coach Jim stepped in and bought the place.

He went out and corralled a PGA tour event. When the Buick Open was folded, Justice prevailed on the powers that be to replace it with the Greenbrier Classic . . . and the first tournament was held in 2010 at the largely refurbished Old White Course that Snead had once fired a 59 on in his younger years.

That first Greenbrier Classic was climaxed on the fourth day of play when Stuart Appleby fired his own 59 to win it in a rush of one-putt greens.

Last year, the winner was Scott Stallings. Justice didn’t much care who won after his touting of all there was at his tournament to entertain families had fetched Phil Mickelson to the field. Mickelson didn’t even make the cut, but he stayed around to see concerts that featured Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood.

Mickelson is back this year. And Justice has scored another coup with the addition of Tiger Woods for his 2012 field.

The tournament begins its four rounds on Thursday, July 5 on the Old White Course that Appleby calls: “An old-style course. It’s a very simple, in front of you test of golf. The greens are smaller. It’s basic stuff, the simple stuff. That’s what we want and this course offers that.”

Just before the deadline to enter, three more recognizable names joined the field. They were Camilo Villegas, Vijay Singh, and Carl Petterson. All the tickets (costing $189 for the four rounds and this year’s round of concerts) were sold out by June 27. The concerts can only be attended by those with ticket badges for watching the golf tournament, but the probable reason for the sell-out is because Tiger Woods will be playing this week.

Entertaining this year will be Lionel Richie, Rod Stewart, Toby Keith, Bon Jovi, and The Fray.

Entertaining on the Old White Course (at least for two rounds) will be Mickelson and Woods.

All week long on the grounds and concert venue, Justice will be whisked about to his various publicity duties on his golf cart. And on Sunday, he will don his immense-in-size green sport jacket and await the winner.

It won’t be high school basketball. It won’t be scrambling through the pile of Greenbrier debts that awaited Justice when he accepted responsibility for the venerable Greenbrier Resort. But it will be a much-watched PGA tournament that has lured Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to its up-graded field.

The prestige of the event was enhanced when Woods was able to win his own tournament held last week at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. It was Wood’s third win of the tour season and moved to first place on both the money winner’s list and the world rankings.

Justice now has Woods, Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, his own pro-emeritus Tom Watson, and Dustin Johnson in this year’s field.[/cleeng_content]

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