The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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June 17, 2014

Weather permitting: Old White TPC nearly ready

Weatherbug, AccuWeather, The Weather Channel. If there’s a telephone app that predicts the weather, Kelly Shumate probably has it.

“I think I’ve got every app known to man,” he laughed. “My phone usually goes dead around lunch time, and I’ll go in and charge it up to try to get me through the rest of the day.”

Shumate isn’t simply a fan of barometric pressure or dew points. The director of golf course maintenance at The Greenbrier, Shumate’s knows that all of his hard work can be erased in an instant with one derecho, as he learned the hard way in 2012 when disaster struck just three days before the opening of The Greenbrier Classic.

“Mother Nature plays a big part in it,” said Shumate, a Mullens native who spent 10 years as the golf professional at Brier Patch Golf Links before moving to The Greenbrier. “You can set a playbook, but you have to deal with what Mother Nature throws at you.”

That’s why Shumate isn’t getting too cocky about where he stands at this point, with just 12 days left before the start of The Greenbrier Classic, West Virginia’s only annual PGA Tour event. He’s confident, though, about the condition of The Old White TPC course, which hosted the 95th West Virginia Amateur last week.

 “We had a cold start to the year, but this is our fifth tournament, and I think we’re in the best shape that we’ve been,” said Shumate. “In years past, things have been a little haywire from time to time and we’ve been in scramble mode. But this year, we’re looking a little better. Maybe it just took me five years to figure things out.”

In years past, there have also been changes to the course.

After Stuart Appleby fired a 59 in the final round of the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010, winning with a score of 22-under-par for the week, the course was lengthened and other changes made to make it a little more challenging for the world’s best golfers.

Other years there have been smaller changes, like a new tee box at No. 18 that was added prior to last year’s event.

Shumate said there are no such changes this year, but that doesn’t mean there’s still not work left for his team. The course closed Monday, and his crew will have the 100-year-old course all to themselves the next two weeks, leading up to the first practice rounds open to golf fans on June 30.

“We’ll be trying to get the greens in shape and put the final touches on everything,” said Shumate. “The greens will get sped up a little bit, and we’ve still got some bunker work to do. For resort play, we try to keep the greens rolling on about a 10 (on the stimpmeter) on a daily basis. We’ll have them up around 11 for advance week.”

That week leading up to the tournament is a busy one that includes daily meetings with Beckley native Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competitions, and his crew, who ultimately determine just how firm they want the greens for the four tournament rounds.

“We have a daily meeting to discuss what we want to do the next day,” said Shumate. “We monitor the speed and moisture on every green every day.

“It’s not as easy as some people might think. We don’t just go out and mow grass. There’s a lot of science to it and a lot of checking.”

And a lot of hours.

Shumate wouldn’t say exactly how many hours he worked in a typical day this time of year, but it’s clear that the number is not a small one.

“It’s pretty much every day from the time you get up until the time everything’s done,” he said. “If we can’t get it done during the day, we’ll be there at night.

“After you’ve been around it for a few years, we know what the deal is and what we need to do. I feel like the course is set up, if the weather cooperates, to have an outstanding week.”

Oh yes, the weather. Time to check those apps again.

— E-mail: chuffman and

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