Fans vow to return to Greenbrier Classic
"I love me some golf," said John Tucker, who drove all the way from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to meet two of his college buddies for the tournament.
Tucker, a Virginia Tech alumnus, said although the drive was long -- "you know, it's really hard to get here"-- he'd be coming back.
"Have you seen how beautiful it is here? I mean really. Who wouldn't want to come back?" he said. "Nice weather, those mountains and golf? I may move here."
Pittsburgh resident Kelley Lynch agreed: "It's gorgeous here."
This is Lynch's first time at the tournament and she came down with some co-workers from Taggart Global, one of the tournament's sponsors.
"I'm loving this," the self-proclaimed golf fan said. "I follow it. I play it. This is great."
Lynch said her company, which also sponsors the Mylan Classic on the Nationwide Tour in the Pittsburgh area, has a skybox on the seventeenth hole.
"It's pretty interesting," she said.
If rumors about the tournament moving to the Fourth of July weekend next year turn out to be ture, Lynch said she will still probably make the trip.
"That wouldn't stop me. I'll do what I am doing right now," she said.
She was one of hundreds of fans mobbing the star trio of Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson and defending champion Stuart Appleby, all of whom teed off together Thursday morning. But Lynch said her favorite player wasn't there.
"I used to be a huge Payne Stewart fan," she said putting her hand over her heart. "Love him." Stewart, a favorite among many fans, died in a plane crash in 1999.
While Lynch stepped out of the sun to seek a little shade around the green of the eight hole, she ran into 8-year-old Gabe, a local resident who was there watching golf with his dad.
"My favorite player is Phil," the boy said. "We're following him all day." But he didn't want any of the other players to feel left out. "I like John Daly, too."
"You like all the good guys," Lynch joked.
When asked if he liked golf, Gabe nodded his head enthusiastically. "Yeah, I like it."
He said he and his dad will keep coming back to the tournament every year.
"It's hot, but this is really fun," he said.
Ruth Ann Assaid agreed that it was hot, and took a break from following Mickelson to sit in the shade.
Assaid and her husband "worked the tournament last year," she said. She started out as an information ambassador before being made a marshal before the tournament. Her husband was a marshal, too.
The couple, from Roanoke, decided not to volunteer again this year to give themselves a little more freedom to follow their favorite players around.
"Phil's been drawing the crowds," she said.
Assaid, who is originally from the Ronceverte area, is a pretty serious golf fan, having attended the Wachovia Championship for the last five years in a row.
"We like the experience," she said.
Volunteer Mike Ferrell was stationed at the eighth hole, the exact same place he was last year.
"I play this course and I volunteered last year too, so I knew exactly which hole I wanted," he said with a laugh.
Ferrell, who is a local Lewisburg resident, said he'd keep volunteering and coming back for the tournament, even if they changed the date.
"This the place I want to be," he said.
Tim Murphy, who was also volunteering at the eighth hole, said the crowds must have the same idea as the volunteers and returning. "There are a lot more people here today than there were Thursday last year."
And it seems, most people will keep coming back, not just to The Greenbrier, but to West Virginia.
"We'd love to explore," said Mike and Rachel, a couple from outside the D.C. area. "If it's this pretty [at the resort], we're excited to see what else there is to do."
Assaid said that's exactly what the tournament should do.
"It's wonderful. I am so excited that this has happened here. Jim Justice has done a great job."
Reach Kathryn Gregory at kathr...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.