Golf part of Greenbrier Resort lore
Golf did not make its Greenbrier debut until 1910, long after the 1778 discovery that the area's mountain springs brought soothing relief to sufferers of chronic rheumatism.
A century ago, The Greenbrier had established itself as an out-of-the-way resort that had attracted such 19th century icons as Martin Van Buren and Henry Clay, but the place lacked a place to play golf, a sport that began exploding in national popularity with the 1894 formation of the U.S. Golf Association.
When a nine-hole layout known as the Lakeside Course opened in 1910 on The Greenbrier grounds, it was one of 267 golf courses in the nation. It was expanded to 18 holes in 1962 and is considered the most picturesque of the resort's three courses.
It came to be known as the Meadows after a 1998-99 renovation that included the addition of three holes and aesthetic upgrades to the greens, bunkers and tees.
The 18-hole Old White Course, named for the Old White Hotel that stood from 1858 to 1922, followed in 1914 and shortly thereafter played host to President Woodrow Wilson, an avid golfer, who made the trip with his wife from Washington to White Sulphur Springs in a private railroad car for an Easter vacation in 1914.
The Greenbrier Course, another 18-hole design, was completed in 1922 and underwent a Jack Nicklaus redesign in 1977. At the dedication, Nicklaus joined Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio for an exhibition.
In its first century of golf, such greats as Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Tom Watson and Nicklaus have played on Greenbrier courses. Watson was named pro emeritus in 2005.
Hogan, in fact, shot a 64-64-65-66-259 in the Greenbrier Open, and Snead fired a 59 on May 16, 1959, on the Greenbrier Course, prompting a congratulatory telegram from, among others, England's Queen Elizabeth. Snead was The Greenbrier's golf professional from 1936 to 1975 and was pro emeritus at the time of his death in 2002.
President Dwight Eisenhower was a regular, sometimes accompanied by Palmer, and President Richard Nixon broke 100 on the Old White. Bob Hope and Bing Crosby and the Duke of Windsor played there.
"One of the great golf experiences in America,'' said longtime Greenbrier historian Robert Conte, "is standing at the elevated first tee of the Old White Course, looking down a very long fairway to a distant green sitting at the foot of the splendid expanse of Greenbrier Mountain."
The Old White played host to the U.S. Women's Championship in 1922 and was won by 19-year-old Glenna Collett, who won the tournament a record six times. The Greenbrier was also the site of two other international tournaments, the Ryder Cup in 1979 and the Solheim Cup in 1994.
In the inaugural Buick Open, Billy Casper, a 27-year-old San Diego native, fired a 3-under-par 285 for a one-stroke victory over Arnold Palmer and Ted Kroll at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich. It was June 23, 1958.
The tournament survived until 2009 and was considered a tuneup event for major tournaments until giving rise to the Greenbrier Classic, which will make its debut Thursday.
The Buick Open continued in Grand Blanc through 1969 but dissolved into a series of pro-ams and unofficial events played mostly at the Flint (Mich.) Golf Club until 1977 when it returned as a sanctioned PGA tournament at the Flint Elks Club.
A year later, it began a three-year run as the Buick-Goodwrench Open and returned to Grand Blanc, where it continued through 2009. The tournament's name reverted to the Buick Open in 1981 and remained unchanged.
Tiger Woods, who won the tournament in 2002 and '06, won the final Buick Open last year, after which General Motors announced it would no longer sponsor the event.
Reach Mike Whiteford at 304-348-7948 or mikewhitef...@wvgazette.com.