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2018 Greenbrier Classic: Changes Coming Now and Possibly in The Future

Large galleries are commonplace at The Greenbrier Classic where the pros will compete for the 2018 purse of $7.3 million.

One of the most popular PGA TOUR FedEx Cup events, The Greenbrier Classic, returns to the historic Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, Monday, July 2 through Sunday, July 8.

The course, which celebrates its 104th birthday this year and plays to par-70, 7,286 yards, has formerly hosted the Solheim and Ryder Cup championships. Another exciting event is expected in 2018, with a total purse of $7.3 million.

Once again expecting to draw thousands of fans and some of the best golfers to ever play the game to the scenic mountain setting, the tournament has a history for the unexpected. Since the tournament began in 2010, everything from record-low rounds to a 4-way playoff, unparalleled concerts to a complete tournament cancellation, have taken center stage.

Nothing has been more spectacular then the inaugural tournament eight years ago where Australian Stuart Appleby came from seven shots down on Sunday to fire an 11-under par 59 to win by one shot, when Jeff Overton’s putt on the signature Old White par-3 18th slid past the cup. Appleby’s 59, the 5th PGA TOUR player in history to reach that number, consisted of nine birdies and an eagle to win the $1.08 million winner’s check.

Looking back from the first green to the clubhouse, the mountainous setting in White Sulphur Springs is spectacular.

Scott Stallings followed in 2011 with a playoff win over Bob Estes and Bill Haas, with Ted Potter, Jr. going three playoff holes in 2012 to defeat Troy Kelly. Things returned to normal in 2013 with a 72-hole win by Jonas Blixt and a win by former Masters winner Angel Cabrera in 2014. Danny Lee emerged from a dramatic four-man playoff to defeat David Hearn, Robert Streb and Kevin Kisner in 2015.

Record rainfall and devastating flooding in West Virginia on June 23rd caused the cancellation of the 2016 Classic. Last year, Xander Schauffele birdied the final hole with a 3-foot putt and watched Streb fail to match his effort on the final green to finish runner-up for the second straight completed Classic.

Other things have taken unexpected turns during the last 8 years. The Greenbrier Classic Concert Series, once bringing in spectacular performances from the likes of Rod Stewart, Aerosmith, The Black Eyed Peas, Bon Jovi and Jimmy Buffet to the fairgrounds in nearby Lewisburg, ended its present run in 2016 when Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice ran for governor and politics became involved by removing the state’s $1.75 million sponsorship.

2010 winner Stuart Appleby with the trophy and Jim Justice.

Despite evidence that The Greenbrier Classic was an excellent way to showcase the state to potential investors and visitors, evidence that for every dollar spent to promote tourism resulted in at least six dollars returned, and Justice spending $9 million to $13 million of his own money annually to put the tournament on (according to his campaign) the stage at Lewisburg has remained dark.

Greenbrier Classic ticket prices have changed significantly this year. In the early years, ground passes for the entire week started at about $80 and included tickets to the concerts, often 2 or 3 headliners during tournament week. In 2017, to bring patrons back after the cancellation in 2016, ground passes were free. This year the weekly passes sell for $249, with no individual day tickets being sold.

Greenbrier officials are excited about this year’s event and what fans can expect.

Greenbrier owner Jim Justice (L), former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal and Greenbrier Pro Emeritus Lee Trevino ham it up at the popular Wednesday Pro-Am in 2015.

“Things will be pretty similar with the tournament,” Cam Huffman, director of public relations, noted to The Star in early June. “The course has matured very well since last year and our crew has done an excellent job of getting things ready. Although many of the biggest names among the golfers commit at the last minute, we feel solid about Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson, both of whom are members of The Greenbrier Sporting Club. Our goal is to continue to hold a quality tournament and keep attracting new people to see what The Greenbrier offers.”

Other changes to future Classics may be on the horizon. Two big changes to the PGA calendar in 2019 could send tournaments, including The Greenbrier Classic, to new dates, with more possible changes down the road.

In 2019, the PGA Championship moves to May for the first time in 70 years when it goes to Bethpage Black on New York’s Long Island. And, The Players Championship moves to March. There is also discussions in the works to change the FedEx Cup Playoff schedule to end in August, before the NFL season begins. One other major catalyst behind the shuffling of tournament dates was golf’s return to the summer Olympics.

Although nothing is certain at this point, one of the tournaments with the potential to find a new date has been rumored throughout the PGA to be the Classic, possibly moving from the present July 4th week to a week of play in the fall. The Classic, played at the end of July in its first two years, has been scheduled on the Fourth of July week since, where America’s resort celebrated America’s holiday.

Bill Turner

 

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