The stage is set.
A total of 35,000 flowers have been planted and are in full bloom. The finishing touches to the skyboxes and grandstands have been made. Three thousand tomato plants have been picked and are ready to be turned into Fried Green Tomato sandwiches. The Casino Club is open. The new tee boxes installed. The fleet of 100 shuttle buses is ready to roll, and the field of 156 golfers has nearly been finalized.
It’s opening day of golf’s newest tradition: The Greenbrier Classic.
The biggest professional golf event in West Virginia’s history gets under way today, ending months of intense planning and preparation to make the event possible.
“It’s been exciting,” Tournament Director Tim McNeely said. “It’s been a learning experience as it relates to new venue, getting used to the lay of the land. It’s a lot of details and trying to foresee contingencies — dealing with this many people, players, players’ families, sponsors and management.”
The gates open today at 8 a.m., and a 28-team Pro-Am tournament begins at 11 a.m. However, the day will begin a lot sooner for some of the 2,200 volunteers tasked with making the tournament go off without a hitch.
Those volunteers, who hail from 23 states, from as far way as Washington, will begin boarding shuttles at 5:30 a.m. to head to their respective assignments.
Whether it’s marshaling guests, assisting sponsors, or participating in scoring and standards practices during the tournament, this army of volunteers will be crucial to the Greenbrier Classic’s success.
“This is such a huge thing and there’s so many people,” Greenbrier Volunteer Coordinator Jim Sweetwood said. “We have volunteers to help volunteers.”
Sweetwood, a 1984 graduate of Greenbrier East High School, knows the importance of the economic impact the tournament is expected to have on the area, and has spent the past six months recruiting volunteers to help with the event. It turned out recruitment was one of the easier jobs related to the tournament.
“In first 10 days, we had 700 volunteers register,” he said. “The past three and a half weeks, we’ve been turning people away.”
Sweetwood said he hopes they will be able to make room for those turned away in next years’ tournament.
Morgantown resident Joy Maramba, who teaches at West Virginia University, will be one of those volunteers showing up today.
This will be Maramba’s third time volunteering at a PGA event, having volunteered for the U.S. Open twice before.
Maramba, who’s played golf for 15 years, said she first thought about volunteering after overhearing a conversation on a flight a few years back.
“They said it was a really good way to see a golf tournament,” she said. “I did it really on a whim thinking it’d be a nice way to get a week’s pass to the U.S. Open and see the tournament and it was actually true. I did it, I had a lot of fun doing it and I’ll try to do it as often as I can.”
While her first shift doesn’t start until Tuesday, Maramba will be taking advantage of her weekly grounds badge to watch some of the PGA players take their practice rounds on the course.
She plans on commuting from Beckley each day to participate in the event.
“You don’t get a PGA tournament that come this close this often, so I think it’s a nice way to get up close and see it,” she said. “It’s a good time.”
On Tuesday, she’ll begin assisting corporate sponsors at the event.
McNeely said much of his staff’s focus between Monday and Wednesday will be accommodating sponsors, who have provided nearly $13 million for the event.
“That’s where we are busy rolling out the red carpet for the sponsors, giving them the ‘Greenbrier experience.’ ”
Volunteers will play a key role in providing that experience to sponsors, spectators, players and their families.
Sweetwood said a lot of detail went into making sure that players’ families were as accommodated as the players themselves.
“We want their wives and children to have as good of a time as their husbands and fathers,” he said.
Sweetwood said everything from the participation of the volunteers and employees to the vision of Jim Justice investing in the hotel and event will be major boosts to the local and state economy.
“People will come and see the area as a great place for a vacation,” he said. “It’s great to have a company willing to invest and build something to get people to come to work.
“From hotel standpoint, it’s a renaissance period. Almost 200 years of history was lost, but now all this is possible because of the vision of one man.”
He said the collaboration of everyone involved has primed the ground for the event to be a major boost to the area.
“It’s been such a team effort. Every employee on this property has worked so hard to make this the best PGA tour event anyone’s ever seen and I think we’ll reap the fruits from that.”
The Greenbrier Classic
Monday - Sunday
n Weekly event badges:
Available online at
Reservations available by phone at 800-453-4858.
Range from $49 for the Weekly Grounds package to $5,000 for the Clubhouse Badge package.
Practice rounds on Monday through Wednesday, competition rounds on Thursday through Sunday, access to special hospitality areas, tickets to the Wednesday peformance of Reba McEntire, a Thursday show featuring Rascal Flatts and the Saturday concert featuring Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, as well as special discounts and vouchers for other amenities at The Greenbrier.
n Weekly parking permits:
Available for $30
Online at www.ticketmaster.com and at select United Bank branches throughout the state.
Also check out the pages for The Greenbrier and Greenbrier Classic on Facebook for updates on the events in White Sulphur Springs.
BOB WOJCIESZAK/DAILY MAIL
Adorned with some of the 35,000 flowers planted at the resort for the tournament, The Greenbrier logo written in grass and set against a background of white rocks will be an appealing sight for TV cameras as they shoot the action along the 18th hole of the Old White course.
BOB WOJCIESZAK/DAILY MAIL
The 18th green on the Old White course as seen from the player’s vantage point. This hole is sponsored by FedEx.
Contact writer Jared Hunt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5148.
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