Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 8, 2012

Local residents enjoy ‘very warm’ tournament at The Greenbrier

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Soon after it opened in 1778, The Greenbrier resort got a reputation as a destination where people could escape the summer heat of lower elevations.

This week, not so much.

Like much of West Virginia, the temperature reached the mid-90s in eastern Greenbrier County on Saturday, but that didn’t faze some area residents who were present for the third year of the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament.

John O’Neal, principal of Graham High School, and his son Hunter were enjoying their opportunity once again to see PGA Tour pros live and in person.

The O’Neals’ game plan for the hot sunshine?

“Lots of water and shade trees,” John O’Neal said during an interview in the shade of the bleachers above the 18th green.

Not far away, Lynne White of Athens was standing on a bridge over a creek, her assigned location as a volunteer helping with crowd control.

The week at the tournament had been “very warm,” she said with a smile, “but I volunteered to be here, and I’m having a great time.”

Her husband Jim and older son Tom, both golfers themselves, also volunteered at the tournament earlier in the week.

Karen Miller, a Bramwell graduate and PikeView coach, was again stationed near the 18th green, keeping the gallery quiet when golfers were ready to make their putts. Dale Lee of Princeton and Paul Hodges of Athens were also reportedly helping as volunteers.

Lynne White said, “The Classic is a great thing for West Virginia … and it takes many hands to make light work.”

John O’Neal said, “To be able to actually watch these professional golfers is tremendous., It’s wonderful to see what they can do, and can’t do.”

Hunter O’Neal, a former Graham golfer who now plays for Milligan (Tenn.) College, said, “It’s just fun, in general, to see how they do it, and to learn from them.”

Troy Kelly, who held the lead for most of the afternoon on the strength of an 8-under-par round, said he’s now used to several kinds of heat.

The native of Washington State has competed in muggy humidity in the Southeast and in tournaments in the desert. He played last week on the Nationwide Tour in Indiana. “This week is obviously hot, too, but I think it was a little hotter last week.”

“I’m from the Northwest,” he said. “I’m used to cold and rain, and then now I’m down in the desert where it’s a dry heat. I would rather be in 110 (degree weather there) than this kind of weather. You’re dry, the air’s moving a little bit down there, and it actually feels better to me – which a lot of people don’t believe.”

Ken Duke, who finished Saturday just a shot behind Kelly, said, “I was getting a headache out there on 17, it was just so hot.” He said even though he now lives in Florida, “I don’t think you ever get used to the heat.”

Tour veteran and Greenbrier emeritus pro Tom Watson, at age 62, shot a even par 70 on Saturday. He joked about the weather at the course.

“I haven’t played it this hot,” he said. “I’ve certainly played it a lot colder. The second year I played here with my sponsors, it was in October and I think … it was about 38 (degrees) when we teed off.”

Two of golf’s biggest draws, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, did not score well enough on Friday to make the cut for the weekend at The Greenbrier.

Duke, who was 11-under par after three rounds, said he told a companion on Saturday morning, “There’s nobody out here today. Tiger and Phil are gone.”

That may have been overstatement. White said, “I think there’s still, perhaps, as many (spectators) here as there was. It’s just that they’re not bunched up. They’re spread out more evenly.”

With power restoration still a problem in Greenbrier County after the storm of June 29, The Greenbrier issued a press release stating that it would be distributing ice, bottled water and food in Alderson, Renick and Rainelle on Saturday. The counties of Summers and Greenbrier were especially hard hit by power outages last week.

Meanwhile, the storm clouds that delayed play at The Greenbrier on Friday were gone on Saturday afternoon, replaced by the MetLife blimp. Hovering between the 17th and 18th holes, the airship beamed images down to a nationwide television audience.

The West Virginia countryside will be on display on national television again this afternoon, with CBS scheduling final-round coverage from 3-6 p.m.

Webb Simpson of Charlotte, N.C., fought off a series of challengers with a 5-under par round and led the tournament going into today’s final 18 holes.

— Contact Tom Bone at

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