By Cam Huffman
Most of the 154 golfers in the three-day, 54-hole, three-course Beckley Newspapers Memorial Golf Classic described the tournament as “a grind.” For Kelly Shumate, it was more like a vacation.
Shumate is the golf course superintendent at The Greenbrier, and the past few weeks haven’t exactly been relaxing for the Mullens native.
As if hosting a PGA TOUR event with the eyes of the state — and the world, thanks to the CBS broadcast — focusing on your work isn’t enough, Shumate had some added pressure this year because of the derecho that swept through West Virginia on June 29, four days before the start of the first practice round at The Greenbrier Classic.
With as many as 50 trees down on The Old White TPC course, and much of Greenbrier County without power, Shumate certainly had his work cut out for him.
“I knew (we could do it),” said Shumate, who said there was never a time he questioned whether his group would be ready. “We’ve got a lot of guys that care. I knew it was going to take some work, but I knew we could get it done.”
A lot of work doesn’t quite describe what went on over the next couple of days. Shumate said he recently did the math and realized he went 56 straight hours after the storm, which occurred on a Friday night, without a single hour of sleep.
“I was kind of running on fumes,” he said.
But by the time the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson — along with tournament champion Ted Potter Jr. — hit the course for their first practice round, it was like nothing ever happened.
“It was tough,” Shumate admitted. “It was a real trying morning. But my staff did an awesome job. We all put the time in.”
Those hours didn’t stop once the tournament started, either. Shumate and his staff got together for a meeting every morning at 4 a.m. during Greenbrier Classic week. After the meeting, they were on the course mowing until about 7 a.m., when the course officially opened.
From there, Shumate and his crew headed to another meeting to prepare for the afternoon, took a break for a couple hours of sleep and then were back on the course around 6 or 7 p.m., when play ended. They’d work until about 11, and then do it all over again the next day.
Their efforts didn’t go unnoticed. Shumate and his staff got plenty of praise from Jim Nantz, Nick Faldo and crew during the CBS broadcast, and he said the players seemed impressed, as well.
“They were real positive,” said Shumate. “We had a lot of guys come down complimenting us on the job we did. The (PGA) TOUR staff was very happy with the conditions, especially with all we went through. They said they couldn’t be happier.”
For Shumate, those compliments made the effort all worthwhile.
“It means a lot to me, because it means so much to my staff,” he said. “I have some staff there that would run through a wall for you. They take pride in their work, and we all want it to be as good as it can be. That’s what we’ve done so far. We feel pretty good about it.”
Shumate’s reward to himself was a trip to the BNI, where he’s twice finished in the top three.
“I was looking forward to coming out here and getting away,” he said. “I wanted to have a little bit of fun.”
But his golf game was a little rusty.
Shumate said he had the opportunity to play six holes Friday night, before his opening round at Pipestem on Saturday, but before that, he hadn’t played in nearly two months.
The lack of practice didn’t show.
Shumate was in third place at the conclusion of the opening round, after firing a 4-under 68. He came back with a 71 Sunday at Grandview, and he finished things off with a 75 Monday at Glade Springs to finish fourth overall with a 2-under 214 for the tournament.
“I’m happy with it,” he said, after playing in the lead grouping over the final 18 holes. “I played a little better (in the final round) than my score, but that’s the way it is sometimes. I think I was 5-over (on the round) at one time, and then I brought it back to a couple over.”
While he said he enjoyed every moment of the BNI, the rest is over for Shumate. He’ll head to work today trying to get the course ready for the 93rd West Virginia Amateur, which will be played at The Greenbrier July 30 through Aug. 2.
“We’ve still got our hands full,” said Shumate.
But nobody is doubting he’ll be ready.