The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 3, 2012

3rd annual event gets going with pro-am

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — When the gates opened up at The Greenbrier Classic on Monday, Matt and Kasie Grose of Charleston were among the thousands of spectators that filed in to the grounds of The Old White TPC golf course at The Greenbrier.

“We’d never been to a practice round before, so we wanted to be able to come down here and see how the players react in a little less stressed out scenario than what they are in usually in real rounds,” Matt, a 33-year old chiropractor, said.

“We wanted to beat the crowds too,” added Kasie, Matt’s 28-year old speech therapist wife.

Monday’s practice rounds and first pro-am tournament kicked off a week’s worth of activity of The Greenbrier Classic, which enters its third year on the PGA TOUR FedExCup schedule.

“There’s never this many fans out for practice rounds, except for maybe the majors,” said PGA golfer Billy Horschel, taking a break from hitting some practice putts while signing autographs for fans. “This place is beautiful. It’s a real nice attraction.”

Horschel played in the 2011 Greenbrier Classic.

“We like to play in front of this many people,” Horschel added. “It’s our pleasure to try to put on a good show for them.”

“These first three days are great for the spectators,” said Jim Justice, The Greenbrier chairman and CEO. “It’s great for the event. I’ll promise you the golfers don’t see this kind of crowd (on a Monday) at other places. We have surpassed all expectations for attendance. We’re sold out.

“It’s really good, especially this year after the weekend storm, for people to come and say ‘Dag! It’s in great shape and ready to go.’ That’s really important.”

The Grose’s have been to competition rounds at The Old White TPC in 2010 and 2011. They’re planning on coming to the Greenbrier Classic most of the rest of the week and are staying with family in Beckley.

“It was great,” said Matt. “They’re very accommodating to the crowds here. Everybody is pretty laid back and relaxed. We’ve been to a couple of other tournaments before, but this one seems to be a little more fan-friendly for the spectators. We really enjoy it here. “

“I’ve played golf basically my whole life, and its something we’ve always wanted here, a big PGA TOUR event to be close to the area. It gives everybody an opportunity to come out and see just how good these guys really are.”

The field of players coming to The Greenbrier Classic is impressive, with fan favorites Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, John Daly, Webb Simpson and former Greenbrier Classic champs Stuart Appleby and Scott Stallings scheduled to play.

But a new face to the event, fresh off a win at last weekend’s AT&T National, has a lot of people’s attention.

Tiger Woods, fresh off his 74th career win, one that allowed him to surpass Jack Nicklaus at No. 2 on the all-time PGA wins list, is coming to The Greenbrier.

He is penciled to play in Wednesday’s Pro Am with a 7 a.m. tee time on No. 1.

He is scheduled for an afternoon press conference today as well.

“We’re all looking forward to getting to see Tiger play,” Matt said. “I think you want to see somebody like Tiger, because he may go down as possibly the best golfer ever. You want to at least get a chance to see him play.”

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Paul Hardesty of Logan had an opportunity to play in the Monday Pro Am — and share some small talk with Watson while on the practice putting green Monday afternoon.

“He was really a great guy,” Hardesty said of Watson, the Greenbrier pro emeritus. “He was really concerned about the (Friday) storm, asking if we had power.”

Hardesty played with PGA pro Patrick Cantley.

Woody Duba, general manager of Beaver Coal Company, played in his first Greenbrier Classic Pro Am on Monday.

“I was excited about playing in it, playing with a pro,” Duba, a 14 handicap golfer said. “Maybe he’ll give me a few tips.”

Duba played with PGA pro D.J. Trahan.

“I’m a proud native of West Virginia,” Duba said. “It’s great, attracting a national audience for this event. It says a lot for our area. It’s a beautiful destination for tourism and vacations.”

Plans include taking in the rest of the week’s action for Duba.

“I’ll be watching the players, having fun with my wife and friends,” he said. “I’ll watch some of The First Tee events (today). It’s really good for kids.”

The First Tee will hold a Youth Clinic at 1:30 today, with more practice rounds all day, with gates opening at 8 a.m.

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