Re-instated amateur stoked for Tour start

Jonathan Bartlett during the West Virginia Open on July 14, 2010.

Jonathan Bartlett during the West Virginia Open on July 14, 2010.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Jonathan Bartlett walked from his nearby home to the first tee at the Greenbrier’s Old White Course for a date with destiny.

The 33-year-old amateur was the first golfer on the course for a Monday morning practice round in preparation for the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic. After all, he’d been waiting for this day – one he thought might never come – for nearly a lifetime.

“8:13 a.m.,” he noted. “(Playing on Tour) was kind of what I wanted to do since I was 11,” he said.

Now, Bartlett sells real estate for the Greenbrier Sporting Club.

The chance of competing in a Tour event seemed unlikely ever to happen when Bartlett regained his amateur status in March after playing several years on golf’s mini-tours.

Once upon a time, he had a bright future in golf. Bartlett roomed with RBC Canadian Open champion Carl Pettersson at Central Alabama Community College until he hurt his back and left school. He recovered and became an All-American at the University of Mississippi.

But when his back injury resurfaced, Bartlett stopped playing again. The West Virginia State Amateur was Bartlett’s first competitive tournament – not counting the Greenbrier member-guest – in six years.

Back pain won’t stop him this week.

“Let’s face it,” Bartlett said, “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime. If it hurts a little bit, (it) doesn’t really make a difference.”

Bartlett is grateful to Greenbrier chairman and owner Jim Justice for extending to him an exemption into the field. Justice, a past participant in the West Virginia Amateur, announced after the first round of the 91st State Amateur that the champ would get to play with the pros in the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.

“Imagine what a tremendous thrill this will be for an amateur to have the opportunity to be inside the ropes with some of the world’s greatest golfers,” Justice said. “It’s incredible.”

Bartlett closed with a final-round 69 for a one-stroke victory. Two-time defending champ Tim Fisher led by two strokes at the start of the final round and by five strokes after the 10th hole before bogeying four of his last eight holes.

“Without Mr. Justice offering the exemption . . . I’m in Fairway Cottage 17 trying to sell a home,” Barlett said.

The salesman in him couldn’t help from using his opportunity in front of the microphones to extol the virtues of a place he’s grown to love.

“We set foot on The Greenbrier (three and a half years ago) and my wife and I were just in awe. When they offered me a job, I jumped on it . . . We’re here for the long haul if they let me.”

For one week anyway, he can live his childhood dream with his two sons – one he said was turning four, his other almost two – watching their father inside the ropes.

Said Bartlett, “We’re going to try to get as much on tape as possible so they’ll believe me when the time comes.” 

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