Greenbrier notebook: Sights and sounds from the PGA debut
According to Lynn Swann, communications director for The Greenbrier, onlythe upper lobby is restricted to just hotel guests. Badge holders are welcomed in the lower lobby, where the shops are, and in the new Casino Club with its shops, restaurants and gaming tables.
It's amazing what's been accomplished in the past two weeks. A retaining wall of large boulders along a section of Howard's Creek looks like it's been there for decades. A muddy construction site is now a private plaza with tables and bar for patrons of the Founders Sky boxes.
Where grass couldn't be unrolled or flower beds planted, there's fresh-smelling mulch.
What's jarring are the large neon signs flashing the names of Massey Energy, United Bank, CSX and other major sponsors of the PGA tournament. It's like seeing billboards on a whitewater trip down the New River.
Among the spectators, the biggest thrill on Monday and Tuesday was spotting star golfer John Daly. Fortunately, he helped out by wearing his usual outlandish attire.
Because Monday and Tuesday were practice rounds, spectators were allowed to take photographs of the players. Gazette photographer Lawrence Pierce snapped some photographs of players putting on the 17th. Cameras and video cameras are banned Thursday through Sunday.
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice and PGA Tournament Director Slugger White talked about their teenage golfing days at Black Knight Country Club in Lewisburg.
"To go from where we were to this, is unbelievable," White said in a joint interview session with Justice.
Justice recalled that in those days they played 54 holes a day, from 8 a.m. to dark.
"We both could shoot par," said Justice. He said he was skinny then and White was really strong. One day, he put an 8-pound rock in White's golf bag, and White didn't seem to notice as he lugged his golf bag up and down the hilly Black Knight course.
It wasn't until the 18th hole that Justice yelled to White to empty his bag.
"I took off running 'cause he could have beat me like a dog," said Justice.
Jonathan Bartlett is going to try to do some business on the golf course this week. The director of sales for the Greenbrier Sporting Club qualified to play in the Greenbrier Classic with his recent win in the West Virginia Amateur.
"I brought my business cards. This is our clientele," he acknowledged.
He said since January, sales in the gated upscale community have totaled $30 million, compared to about $18 million for all of 2009.
Bartlett said the nice part is that there is no debt on the sporting club -- Justice paid cash.
"We want to keep selling property, but we don't need to," he said.
Scott Burdette of Winfield's Burdette Camping Center said no golf fan should miss this PGA event. He's been to some in Florida so he knew to bring a canvas folding chair, which he was sitting in on the 17th green. His advice to those planning on coming later this week: be prepared to walk. And bring sunglasses, which he forgot to do, explaining that the ornate pair he had on were ones his wife left in the car.
There are bleachers for viewing at various spots on the course, including the 17th green. Charleston law firm Spilman, Thomas and Battle has the upper deck of Watson's perch.
Members of the West Virginia Army National Guard were helping provide security, including making sure that only those with the right number on their badge got access to the Founders' air conditioned skyboxes equipped with individual kitchens. Specialist Abe Ferguson of Charleston volunteered for the security assignment. Of course, he's a golfer.
Heather Barry of Kanawha City recently took up the sport. She joked that she signed on as a volunteer to observe the stance and swing of the golf's best.
She's driving from home for four days to work the 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. shift. On Monday, she planned to hang around for a while after her shift, and ended up staying until evening. Her tip: The golf bags carried by the caddies have the name of the golfer.
Late Tuesday, Justice cut the ribbon to the newest eatery in The Greenbrier.
The Forum, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria, is in the former location of Draper's Cafe, which moved to the mezzanine area of the new Club Casino.
Reach Rosalie Earle at ea...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.