Turns out that the Kanawha Valley will have a rooting interest after all in the PGA Greenbrier Classic.
Barry Evans, the pro at Berry Hills Country Club, received an exemption from the Tri-State PGA to compete in next week's inaugural tournament at The Greenbrier's Old White Course in White Sulphur Springs.
Evans earned the honor by capturing the Tri-State PGA section championship last August at Oak Tree Country Club in West Middlesex, Pa., but the group wasn't sure until recently that it would even receive an exemption into the PGA Tour event.
"It's kind of funny,'' Evans said Wednesday. "The section didn't know we were getting a spot. On our last contract, the lawyer left that [clause] out by accident. Then the PGA called and asked us, 'Who's your exemption?' and we said, 'What exemption?'
"Traditionally, any section that gets a spot in a tournament, it goes to the sectional champ, and that's why I'm going. When I won, the pro at The Greenbrier [Hill Herrick] said, 'You're in the Classic.' Then I immediately found out I was not, and I hadn't thought about it [since]. I didn't enter any of the qualifiers or anything.''
Some people, including Evans, thought the winner of last week's West Virginia Open might get an exemption into the Greenbrier Classic field, much like Lewisburg's Jonathan Bartlett received for capturing the State Amateur earlier this summer, but that didn't happen.
Still, Evans has time to think about the honor now, and must make the time to prepare to play alongside some of the best golfers in the world.
"It's going to be fun,'' he said. "I'm 48 years old and I've played in [PGA] Tour events and two major championships, but to play in a West Virginia tour event - and especially to have my son caddie for me - is really exciting. A lot of fun. I'm not going down there with the delusion that I'm going to win it or anything. Every day I'm there, I'm going to take it all in and enjoy it.
"Anytime you have something big, you practice more than normal - like the National Club Pro or the State Open. I was just going to relax because I didn't have anything big until the middle of August, but now I've got to practice more.''
The four-day, 72-hole Greenbrier Classic begins on Thursday, July 29, but players will have practice rounds Monday and Tuesday that week and a pro-am is set for Wednesday. PGA players have until 5 p.m. Friday to commit to the event.
Evans, the Tri-State PGA player of the year in 2008 and three-time sectional championship winner, didn't want to set any hard and fast goals for himself in the Classic.
"If I played really well, I could make the cut,'' he said. "Whether I do or not, I'm going to have a good time. It's going to be an exciting few days, spending time being around the best players in the world.''
Evans wouldn't mind playing in a group with Bartlett, whom he came to know during last week's State Open.
"Traditionally, some of the provisional guys sometimes get paired,'' Evans said. "I'd love to be paired with him. I met him at the Open, and he's a super nice guy.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.