Local Knowledge: 2010 Greenbrier Classic

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The Greenbrier, site of this week's Greenbrier Classic, was a special place to the late Sam Snead.
By
T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer
PGA.com

Series: Local Knowledge

In the past, The Greenbrier in West Virginia has played host to such prestigious events as the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup. This week, the world-class resort welcomes the PGA Tour for the inaugural Greenbrier Classic. We checked in with Greenbrier PGA Head Professional Hill Herrick for a little insight into what it's like with the tournament about to start. PGA.com: Thanks so much for joining us, Hill, and congratulations on this week's inaugural Greenbrier Classic. I would imagine it's an exciting time there. Can you talk a little about what the anticipation of the event has been like? Herrick: The tournament was announced last August 5, which to my understanding is pretty short notice. But, since it was announced, I can tell you it's been nothing but non-stop excitement since then. We have never had a Tour event before. We've had the Ryder Cup the Solheim Cup and a senior event, but never a regular Tour event. This is amazing. Business has been slow everywhere because of the economy, but this is going to be great for the community. This is the biggest event we've ever had. I know that's saying a lot, but the truth is when we had the Ryder Cup in 1979 it wasn't the event it's become today. PGA.com: Two legends of the game are synonymous with The Greenbrier - the late Sam Snead and five-time British Open champion Tom Watson. Can you tell us about their connection to The Greenbrier? Herrick: They're both connected in very different ways, actually. Sam Snead was from Hot Springs, Va., which is less than an hour away and he started coming to The Greenbrier in 1936. The hotel was closed during World War II and Sam left on bad terms in 1974. Eventually, he was talked into returning and from 1993 until he passed away in 2002, he was the resort's emeritus pro. His presence is still everywhere at The Greenbrier from photos to Sam Snead's at the Golf Club restaurant. As I mentioned, with Tom Watson it was a totally different relationship. We had the Ryder Cup in 1979. Tom was on that team, but his wife went into labor early in the week and he went back to Kansas City. But, he loved the Greenbrier. In 1980, he started brining his sponsors here in the fall to play golf and to wine and dine them. Tom had been here once a year for 30 years, then our former owners started an outing in 1989 Memorial Day weekend and Tom was the headliner. So, he's been coming twice a year for the last 18 years and also stops by for vacation. He's a great ambassador for us. We have the Tom Watson Fall Classic, so that's probably when we'll see him next. PGA.com: How much does this tournament mean to the community? I already see where Kenny Perry has pledged to donate $2,000 for every birdie he makes during the tournament to the 29 families affected by the April mining disaster. Herrick: Our goal is well defined. The most money raised for a first-year Tour event was $1.6 million in Charlotte. We want to double that and we're well on our way. We have plenty of options for donating through weekly passes and other initiatives. As much as 30 percent of the ticket packages costs can be donated to the charity of the buyer's choice. It's very worthwhile to the community and the state. That was a special gesture by Kenny and our owner, Jim Justice, has said he's going to match Kenny. Obviously, everyone in this area was touched by the mining disaster here. PGA.com: As the host PGA Professional, what are you most looking forward to about tournament week? Herrick: I think it's the excitement. We'll be exposed to the world. I just heard we're going to be on TV 31 hours and that's going to be outstanding exposure for the resort, long term. The week will be fun. The generation of the players now haven't been here yet. The Ryder Cup players are well on the Champions Tour or beyond. There are probably less than five players that will be in the field that have actually been here before, I think. They'll enjoy the whole experience. They'll rave about the hotel, the casino, all the amenities. We want feedback on everything, not just golf. PGA.com: What's the most vital part of the game players will need to command in order to be successful on the Old White Course? Herrick: They need to play smart off the tee. We've restored the course. Lester George came in, in 2003 and made it a more strategic course with cross bunkers - he brought it back to the way it was years ago.