The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 9, 2013

Classic puts state on display

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — An injury kept Tiger Woods from ever arriving. The altitude and some questionable decision making kept Phil Mickelson from staying, and a sore elbow kept John Daly from finishing.

Still, even after a Sunday afternoon thunderstorm drove some fans away and caused the trophy presentation to take place in the dark, the 2013 Greenbrier Classic was a huge success.

If you don’t believe me — I grew up in Greenbrier County so I am admittedly a little biased, since I’ve always been proud of my home state and home county — ask Jim Nantz. The 54-year-old Charlotte, N.C., native has been the voice of the PGA TOUR on CBS since 1986, and while presenting the trophy to new champion Jonas Blixt Sunday, he couldn’t contain his excitement.

“Thank you to the greatest fans I see all year long, the fans of West Virginia,” he said, calling The Greenbrier a true American treasure. “You’ve made this the best event on TOUR.”

Nantz wasn’t alone in his praise. Beckley native Slugger White, the PGA TOUR’s rules and competition expert, had pride oozing out of every pore of his body as he addressed the crowd with the sun setting behind the picturesque mountains.

“You talk about a miracle, this was a miracle tonight,” he said, referencing a final round that most said could not be finished after a three-plus hour weather delay. “West Virginia shined like it always does.”

The winner? Of course he enjoyed every moment.

“It’s just really cool to be here and just enjoy the facilities and everything,” said Blixt. “And then to actually win, yeah, it’s really cool.”

His only complaint was that he didn’t get to enjoy the area more.

“I kind of wanted to do a lot more things,” he said. “But I kind of had to focus on something else.”

Bubba Watson loved it so much he’s considering building a home on the property. Nick Faldo already has. Tom Watson, Kenny Perry and Webb Simpson all proudly display the logo while out on TOUR, and players who have no connection at all are spreading the word whenever they can.

The Greenbrier has returned to its roots and is once again a golf destination, and the fans who lined the fairways and treated the golfers like royalty deserve a lot of credit for that rebirth. Those of us fortunate enough to call these hills home, know the beauty of the clouds hanging in the mountains after a summer storm. We understand the hospitality that you’ll find from the people here, and love the recreational opportunities that the area provides. We’re fully aware that family comes first, and we certainly know how to throw a party.

Now, thanks to The Greenbrier Classic, the secret is getting out, and more and more people want to become a part of it.

Greenbrier chairman and CEO Jim Justice said it best when he called The Greenbrier a magical place. But he wasn’t crediting David Copperfield for making it that way.

“We can do a lot of nice stuff,” he said. “But if you don’t show up, we don’t have the greatest show on earth.”

Sorry, Ringling Brothers. When you can find a way to get a 63-year-old sports icon (Tom Watson), a country music superstar (Kenny Chesney), a 19-year-old college student competing with the best in his sport (Michael Kim), a legendary rock band (Aerosmith), a Masters champion who owns a General Lee (Bubba Watson), a billionaire high school basketball coach (Jim Justice), an emotional Swedish champion (Jonas Blixt), the NBA logo (Jerry West), an NFL commentator (Cris Collinsworth), a Super Bowl-winning coach toting a young golfer’s bag (Sean Payton), a college football icon (Frank Beamer), the host of a television reality show (Chris Harrison), fried green tomato sandwiches, peach tea and thousands of appreciative fans all together in a town with a population of fewer than 2,500 people, you can have your title back.

Until then, it belongs to The Greenbrier Classic.

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

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