Weather key to Old White scoreboard
Actually, the weather figures to have a lot to do with how low the pros go for the inaugural tournament starting July 26 on the par-70 Old White course.
If thunderstorms bedevil the four-day, 72-hole event - and, hey, what's a midsummer week without a few good downpours? - then the greens get too soft and become dartboards for PGA marksmen.
"I've learned not to guess,'' said PGA pro Brandt Snedeker, who was part of the Greenbrier Classic media day earlier this month. "No matter what I say ends up being the complete opposite wrong.
"Everything can change with the weather. If we have great weather and the course stays firm, it'll be tough. But if you get some rain and the course plays soft, guys can make some birdies. So it just depends on the weather for the week.''
Obviously, it's a vastly different ballgame, but golf fans around West Virginia annually are used to seeing even-par golf on Old White make you a contender for the State Amateur title.
However, the format for that event has alternated play on Old White and the par-72 Greenbrier course since 1982, so performance over four rounds is hard to project. The last Am to play all four rounds at Old White was 1978 and Scott Davis, then of Wheeling, won at 1-under 279.
The only two State Opens played at Old White were about the same. George Hoffer of Wheeling was the winner at 5-over in 1947, and Ed Tutwiler of Charleston won at 5-under in 1956. But only three of the four rounds in the latter year were played on Old White, and Tutwiler was 1-under for those 54 holes.
More recently, a Champions Tour event (formerly the PGA Senior Tour) was held at the resort from 1985-87, but those were all played on the Greenbrier course.
So what will the skills of today's professionals translate into on Old White's scoreboard? Again, expect to see numbers obviously go a lot lower.
"If I was to be generic,'' said PGA player Stuart Appleby, "I would say anything in the mid- to high-teens [under par] is considered an easy golf course, anything near double figures, 10 to 12, is tough. Anything under 10 is a real tough golf course.
"I'm guessing for this course to be that tough, it will have to be firm. The ball will have to get away from us. If it's soft, you will see it go into the teens. So I think under par will comfortably win this, but it's a matter of what Mother Nature dishes out, which I have no idea.''
Lester George, the course architect who oversaw the restoration of Old White in 2006 as well as the adjustments in the last year to get the course PGA ready, also wonders about the winning score.
"I've often said that if 2-under wins, I win,'' George said, "and if 24-under wins, I win. So I don't know.''
George recalled that in 1950, legendary golfer Ben Hogan continued his miraculous comeback from a terrible auto accident the year before by winning the Greenbrier Open with a then-record score of 21-under at Old White. It was Hogan's first win since the accident.
"So it's out there,'' George said. "The scores are out there. If it gets soft, they could shoot a really low number. The only defense of this golf course is not its length. It's not the severe doglegs. It's just its bunkering and its green complexes. That's where it's all at.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.