Greenbrier bids for PGA Tour stop

As one American icon exits the PGA Tour, another prepares to take its place.

Golfweek has learned that The Greenbrier, the venerable mountain retreat recently rescued from financial straits, is awaiting confirmation from the Tour to join the schedule for 2010. The West Virginia resort would replace the Buick Open, which this week will end a 51-year run on Tour, according to two sources familiar with The Greenbrier’s operations who requested anonymity.

Jim Justice, who swooped in with an eleventh-hour deal to buy The Greenbrier earlier this year, told Golfweek on July 28 that Tour officials have made multiple visits to White Sulphur Springs and like what they see.

Justice insisted that no deal has been done but left clear his intentions for a West Virginia institution, a AAA 5-Diamond property for 33 consecutive years that tumbled from former owner CSX into bankruptcy before Justice’s $20.1 million purchase.

“We want to have a PGA (Tour) event at The Greenbrier,’’ Justice said. “I think the PGA would want to have a PGA event at The Greenbrier.

“I’m waiting for them (the Tour) now.’’

Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president, would not comment when contacted by Golfweek.

With the Tour in Grand Blanc, Mich., this week for the final rendition of the Buick Open, a 51-year summer staple, a formal announcement is expected next week, according to multiple sources.

Left unclear is the status of the Fall Series events, at least two of which – Turning Stone Resort Championship and Frys.com Open – are lobbying the Tour for better dates.

Turning Stone’s Dan Hartman would not comment when contacted by Golfweek.

Justice, a burly 6-feet, 7-inch mountain of a man, has amassed a sterling reputation – and fortune – to match his physique. He owns coal mines and large agricultural holdings in several states. His resurrection plans for The Greenbrier, a 721-room retreat that dates to 1778 and is tucked into a remote part of southeastern West Virginia’s Allegheny Mountains, include casino gambling.

The Resort has a rich history in golf. The 1979 Ryder Cup and the 1994 Solheim Cup were held on the Jack Nicklaus-designed Greenbrier Course. Tom Watson is the golf professional emeritus, a position once held by Hall of Fame member Sam Snead, who caddied there in his youth, earned his first Tour win – the 1936 West Virginia Closed Pro – and reportedly made his final hole-in-one on the 18th at the Greenbrier Course in 1995 at age 83.

Of Greenbrier’s three golf courses, the 6,870-yard, par-70 Old White Course was favored by the Tour’s advance team, Justice said.

“The first time they were here, they kind of zeroed in on the Greenbrier Course,’’ he said. “There was even discussion of combining holes off of the courses. The last time they were here, they went out on the Old White Course, and they loved it. They absolutely loved it. They said they might change a couple of tees, but they absolutely loved it.’’

Justice confirmed to Golfweek that The Greenbrier would sponsor the event and that the purse would be among the Tour’s richest.

“As far as the purse being of the level of all the FedEx Series tournaments, if we would get it, that would be correct,’’ Justice said. Those events award purses of about $6 million.

“If The Greenbrier gets something,’’ Justice said, “it’s going to do it as the sponsor and it’s going to do it first-class.’’

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