Classic field taking shape
Exactly 55 years ago Monday, a group of government officials converged on White Sulphur Springs to discuss the construction of a top-secret Cold War fallout shelter called "The Bunker" under The Greenbrier's West Virginia Wing.
And while tourists can now visit the once-covert location, starting Thursday a field of 156 golfers will try at all costs to avoid bunkers altogether.
After months of buildup, activities for the second Greenbrier Classic finally got underway at 1:30 Monday afternoon with practice rounds and a 25-team pro-am on the Old White TPC. Among the pairings for the pro-am was the combination of John Daly and owner of The Greenbrier, Jim Justice. The duo played together last year in the event as well.
"I don't know which one has signed more autographs," public relations director Lynn Swann said via phone interview. "They both had a great time playing together last year."
Daly has had a busy and rewarding couple of days, finishing in a tie for ninth place at the RBC Canadian Open that wrapped up Sunday in Vancouver, British Columbia. With the top 10, Daly earned his way into the Greenbrier Classic field instead of having to use a sponsor's exemption as was originally planned.
While Daly's top 10 last week was probably a confidence builder heading into this week's tournament, his strong finish may have been even better news for former Virginia Tech golfer Drew Weaver.
Weaver, who played in last year's Classic but missed the cut, will take the exemption vacated by Daly. He was 1-under through the first two rounds last year, and missed the cut by a single shot. The 24-year-old is the 2007 British Amateur champion and turned pro in 2009.
As it would turn out, the exemption moving from Daly to Weaver was just one of many transactions to occur between Sunday and Monday.
It looked as though the field would feature 10 players with a PGA Tour win in 2011 after Sean O'Hair won the Canadian Open in a playoff on Sunday. But O'Hair, long since scheduled to appear in the Classic, dropped out after his win on Sunday and will be replaced by Michael Letzig.
While The Greenbrier is touted as an ideal vacation spot, O'Hair's absence may be in large part due to a vacation from golf.
With Sunday's win, the 29-year-old earned a two-year exemption and will play in the World Golf Championship's Bridgestone Invitational held Aug. 3-7 and the following week's PGA Championship. Had he played the Classic this week, it would have meant playing on four consecutive weekends.
Canadian Tour member Adam Hadwin took the John Daly route into the field and will make good on a fourth-place showing at Sunday's Canadian Open by playing at The Classic. Also added to the field on a sponsor's exemption will be 2008 Canadian Open-winner Chez Reavie.
But player movement wasn't the only news from Monday as the first charitable act of the week kicked off within hours of the first golf being played at the course. All day on Monday, 10 percent of sales in the Ralph Lauren shop were donated to the First Tee youth program.
First Tee participants will be an even larger focus today as Youth Day activities will take over the course, starting with a Junior Clinic on the practice range at 1:30 p.m. Young golfers will also take part in a First Tee scramble at 3 p.m. in which four youths will be joined by a professional to play the first, third and 18th holes.
A Polo Skills challenge at 4 p.m. on the No. 1 hole will end the Youth Day festivities as pros Ben Martin, Charles Howell, III, Jonathan Byrd, and Webb Simpson will participate.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com.