Tournament director pleased with turnout
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Greenbrier Classic tournament director Tim McNeely heard and saw the criticism.
He heard it on the radio. He read it in the newspapers.
Some said the course is too short for a PGA Tour event. Some said it's too easy for such excellent golfers.
With the tournament wrapping up, though, McNeely seemed content.
"It's not a long course,'' he said. "It's just over 7,000 yards. It has a historic design. Before this [Sunday] morning, it was a little soft. The greens were a little soft.
"It's not the U.S. Open though. It's a fun golf course, a historic venue. All the players have told me how much fun they had. Put wedges in these guys' hands eight or nine times and [markedly low scores are] what's going to happen.''
That said, both McNeely and resort owner Jim Justice said there will be tweaks before next year's Classic.
"That's going to be a discussion between Mr. Justice and the PGA Tour,'' McNeely said. "I mean, I've had a couple players tell me there are a couple fairways that can be pinched in a little bit possibly. Maybe grow the rough a little higher.
"But [the participants] love this golf course. They think it's fun. They're out here having fun and making birdies. And certainly it's fun for the spectators to come out and see all this action.''
"Not really,'' McNeely said. "We wanted bigness. We wanted big crowds, which we got. We had some [inclement] weather - and we were hoping to keep that nice. There are little tiny things behind the scenes nobody would know about that we can tighten up. But that's at all events. You always tighten things up.
"By and large, though, I've had great feedback from the PGA Tour, great feedback from the PGA Tour players, all the stakeholders and sponsors. That's the main thing.''
The tournament director was especially pleased with the spectator turnout. He said there were a little over 40,000 fans present on Saturday. On Thursday, there were a little over 30,000.
"Of the first three days, the PGA Tour [representatives] said, 'We don't see crowds like that on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,''' McNeely said. "We had a lot of people here.''
He admitted, however, many of those were stuck in traffic for the Saturday night concert featuring Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.
"I don't know what you do about that,'' McNeely said. "You have one road in with [Rts.] 219 and 60 feeding into one lane ... People just have to understand if they want to see a concert, that's the only infrastructure we have. Get there a little early.
"Don't forget we're a first-year event. We're trying to be perfect, but it's impossible. We'll try to tighten up some things next year, but I don't know what you do about the traffic thing. We've engaged the state and county police. They're helping and putting all they can into it.''
McNeely said he hopes resort pro emeritus Tom Watson can play in the event next year, but didn't make a promise.
"I'm no one to speculate on that,'' he said. "I don't even know Mr. Watson, but it would be an honor to have him here some day. While he's as competitive as he is, though, it's hard to argue with him playing [in the U.S. Senior Open], with a chance to win a major championship.''
McNeely also addressed the long-term goal Justice mentioned earlier in the week of someday landing a U.S.Open at the resort.
"One thing I know about Jim Justice after working for him: There's not a whole lot that man can't do,'' McNeely said. "I'm not going to doubt him.''