WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - When the PGA confirmed that The Greenbrier resort would host a FedEx Cup tournament for six years, Dallas Branch saw a golden opportunity for his students in West Virginia University's sports management program.
So when Tim McNeely, a graduate of the program who is The Greenbrier Classic's tournament director, said he was looking for interns, Branch helped two of his students move their education out of the classroom and onto the golf course.
"We sort of look at ourselves as a sports management family," Branch said Saturday.
The hands-on training covers a variety of tasks, including event operations, tournament operations, sponsorship sales, ticket sales, logistics and management of time and people, he said.
"It's not a uni-dimensional experience," he said. "They get to do a lot of different things."
Tyson Thompson, a 24-year-old graduate student from Lenoir, N.C., was one of two interns selected from WVU.
With a full-time staff of six people, the tournament's organizers put them to work right away, he said. Right after he started on June 7, he was working on a variety of tasks, including setting up vendor contracts, helping prepare the luxury skyboxes, getting ropes and fences put up, and generally getting the facility ready to host the tournament.
"It's not like a normal internship, where you're stapling papers and making copies," he said.
The unique opportunity of working as an operations assistant at The Greenbrier Classic meant that he could see a high-level event built from the ground up, he said. And almost right away, he was handed responsibility for jobs that needed to get done in order for preparations to move forward.
"They let you see how it's done, and then they let you do it," he said.
Another benefit of the internship is the networking opportunity, he said.
Once he completes the internship, he will have enough coursework hours to graduate, so the next step will be looking for a job, preferably in golf or collegiate athletic administration.
Branch thinks the personal connections will prove invaluable for his students.
"The world of sports management, I think, is based on who you know as much as what you know," he said.
Branch's own involvement with The Greenbrier Classic is a case in point. At the 18th green, he's announcing the players' names as they approach the greens, something he did for McNeely at his previous gig, running a tournament at the Pete Dye Golf Club.
When The Greenbrier landed the PGA tournament, Branch offered his services once again, and a few weeks ago, McNeely gave him the go-ahead, Branch said.
"He said, 'You've got the job, unless Mr. Justice [The Greenbrier's owner] has somebody else in mind."
Reach Andrew Clevenger at acleven...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.