The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

June 24, 2013

Let the countdown begin

Greenbrier Classic just 1 week away

The first practice round for the 2013 Greenbrier Classic is now just a week away, and first-year tournament director Monte Ortel couldn’t be more excited.

Although Ortel admitted that his job has been a stressful one since he was promoted from assistant director in April, he also said that the excitement is growing.

“It’s right around the corner, and our staff has been working from sun-up to sun-down,” he said. “The excitement is rising. We’re right on schedule with the golf course, and we’ve been able to announce some big commitments.”

Ortel said he’s spent much of the last couple months on the road trying to recruit players to compete in the fourth-year tournament, which will be held July 1-7 on The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC Course in White Sulphur Springs.

“In the past, I did more planning for tournament week,” he explained of the difference in the duties of an assistant director and the director. “In the seat I’m sitting in now, it’s all about building relationships with players and sponsors. Next year when I show up to an event and start talking about The Greenbrier Classic, it will be easier for me to segue into commitments.

“Relationship building has been key for me the last couple of months.”

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Ortel seems to be doing a solid job with his recruiting.

Although an injury put an end to the chances of getting Tiger Woods back for a second year, the field for next week’s is still filled with talent.

With the announcements of Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson as commitments over the past week, there are now 10 major championship winners in the 2013 Greenbrier Classic field.

Bradley and Watson are two of the most recent winners, with Bradley winning the 2011 PGA Championship and Watson capturing the 2012 Masters.

Other major winners in this year’s field include Ben Curtis, John Daly, Lucas Glover, Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Vijay Singh and Tom Watson, who tops the list with eight majors.

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Ortel also confirmed five new commitments on Sunday. Brian Gay, James Hahn, Russell Henley, Seung-yul Noh and Jonathan Byrd will all be a part of this year’s field.

Gay, a native of Fort Worth, Texas, and a former Florida Gator, has won four times on the PGA TOUR. Hahn, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, played college golf at the University of California. He played in the 2012 U.S. Open.

Henley, just 24 years old, played at the University of Georgia. He became the first PGA TOUR rookie in 12 years to win his debut when he captured the 2013 Sony Open, breaking a tournament scoring record in the process.

Seung-yul Noh also hails from Seoul, South Korea, and has won twice on the Asian Tour and once on the European Tour.

Byrd, who was born in Anderson, S.C., and played college golf at nearby Clemson University, was the 2002 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. He's won five times on TOUR and finished eighth at the 2003 Masters.

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New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who won a Super Bowl ring in 2009, will be among the celebrities on the grounds at The Greenbrier during the week of The Greenbrier Classic.

Payton, who will be back with the Saints after sitting out the 2012 season under a suspension that stemmed from a bounty scandal that allegedly paid players for “knocking out” targets from opposing teams, had a message on his Twitter account Saturday that announced he will be the caddie for PGA TOUR professional Ryan Palmer at The Greenbrier.

An Amarillo, Texas, native, Palmer has three PGA TOUR victories since turning professional in 2,000.

— E-mail: chuffman@ and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

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