The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 13, 2013

BNI showcases golf’s ‘other side’

Annual golf tournament’s 33rd edition begins today at two Beckley courses

I love the game of golf. I play it about as well as Roseanne sings the national anthem, but I love to hack it around, even if it takes me 120 strokes to finish.

As much as I love to play it, though, I enjoy watching it even more. My wife regularly questions why I spend many of my Sunday afternoons watching guys I don’t know chase a white ball around a place I’ve never been, and it nearly caused a war when I explained that we had to pay our satellite company a few extra dollars a month to assure that The Golf Channel was part of our television lineup.

Watching it live? Well, that’s even better. The hardest part about leaving South Carolina to come back to West Virginia a year ago was leaving behind the gig I had covering the Masters. My first goal once I got back home was figuring out how to weasel my way back onto golf’s most hallowed ground — something I’m proud to say I accomplished this April.

A nice consolation prize is certainly The Greenbrier Classic. It’s not a Major Championship, but it’s about as close as you can get. You won’t find a better event anywhere on the PGA TOUR schedule, and I thoroughly enjoy what admittedly is a busy week.

But after some time off to “recover” from the difficult assignment of eating jambalaya and peach cobbler at The Greenbrier, it’s back to more golf, as the 33rd annual BNI Memorial Classic begins today.

The event — which First Community Bank has helped to make possible as the major sponsor, with Lewis Automotive also serving as a sponsor — will include more than 150 golfers with tee times today at both Grandview Country Club and Brier Patch Golf Links. It will be played this year in honor of 1985 BNI champion Andy Holland, who passed away in 2011.

Covering the two events back-to-back provides the ultimate contrast.

During the rain delay last Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic, I was dining on ribs and salad while watching CBS interview the game’s biggest stars on a giant television in the media center. If we get rain this weekend — and based on the last few weeks I’m going to go out on a limb and say we will — I’ll probably be leaning up against a wall somewhere eating a bag of chips and interviewing a 20-handicapper on my $20 recorder.

Last weekend, I was provided with typed quotes with each player’s comments after he left the course. This weekend, I’ll be chasing golfers to their cars and scribbling notes on a piece of paper.

But the experience, although about as similar as my swings compared to that of Tom Watson’s, will still be an enjoyable one.

After seeing golf at its most elite level, it’s always nice to come back and watch it played back at its roots.

The guys at The Greenbrier Classic are playing for millions of dollars and a shot at Augusta National. Most of the participants at the BNI are playing just to spend time with friends and enjoy the outdoors. That’s the true essence of the sport and, frankly, it can be refreshing.

The BNI has its great golfers. Brandon Reece can play with the best of them, and Winston Canada fell just a couple strokes shy of playing in The Greenbrier Classic, when he nearly won the 2012 West Virginia Amateur.

But this weekend’s tournament also includes veterans like 78-year-old Jim Hamrick, who just enjoy the experience, even if they don’t sink as many birdie putts as they once did.

Over the next three days, I’ll see some great shots — and a few others that will remind me this isn’t the PGA anymore. I’ll hear some great stories — and a few tall tales. I’ll get a chance to interview some golfers that appreciate the opportunity to play the game with friends — with no real pressure on their shoulders.

It’s going to be a fun weekend — culminating with the championship flight Monday at the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs — and if anybody feels the need to supply me with some of those ribs to bring back the memories of last week, I’m not going to complain.

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

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