Greenbrier Classic: Resort becoming a family friendly draw for touring pros
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - The Greenbrier Classic is about more than just golf for PGA Tour players and their families.
For many, it's a chance to get away with their children and enjoy all the amenities of The Greenbrier resort while taking care of a little golf business during the day.
"It's a really special spot - simple as that," said Nick Faldo, who first visited The Greenbrier in 1979 to play in the Ryder Cup.
The golf pro-turned-analyst for CBS Sports was in awe of the resort then. His feelings have only intensified over the last three years, when he has returned to help broadcast the Greenbrier Classic.
"I was in love with the place before, but have fallen more in love with it now," he said.
So much so that he's now building a vacation home on one of the hills lining the resort.
"I'm enjoying this being my second home," Faldo said.
Organizers have used the resort's appeal to attract players and keep them coming back since the tournament began in 2010.
First-year tournament director Monte Ortel said The Greenbrier offers players and their families a unique experience compared to other PGA Tour events.
"What sets us apart from the majority of the events on tour is the fact that The Greenbrier has a golf course within walking distance of where they sleep, and dine, and shop and go to the spa," Ortel said.
"It's not that I get in the courtesy car and I go up 30 minutes up the road to check in to a Fairfield Inn," he said. "This is the complete package - they stay here, they eat here and they play here."
And by play, he means more than just golf.
He means whitewater rafting, zip lining, falconry, bowling, shuffleboard, horseback riding, fishing, off-road driving and croquet - all available either on the resort grounds or within a short drive.
These attractions are what have made The Greenbrier Classic the top stop on the tour for golfers' families.
Every year, more than 100 children of PGA Tour players have been involved in the child care activities at The Greenbrier - far greater than any other tournament venue.
While the PGA coordinates the events, Greenbrier Classic volunteers help run them.
Ortel said some events planned this week include an ice cream social with clowns, bowling and a pizza party. Last year, the resort set up a croquet tournament for the kids that proved popular.
The fact that families can have so much fun during tournament week has given the Greenbrier Classic a positive reputation among tour pros.
Word-of-mouth has made it easier for officials to recruit players to the event, Ortel said.
"When you have players talking to other players about The Greenbrier, that's better than you talking to players about the Greenbrier," he said. "They're our best advertising."
With the tournament in its fourth year, Ortel said word has now gotten out about all The Greenbrier has to offer.
"It's not a secret anymore how special this place is on tour," he said.
Players are also taking to social media to share their experiences.
First-year Greenbrier Classic competitor Bubba Watson arrived with his family last week and began tweeting about his experiences.
"This place is #AWESOME!" Watson said in his first tweet last Thursday.
Several tweets have followed in the days since.
Greenbrier owner Jim Justice said he has had Watson over to visit at his farm and said he was taken with the resort and surrounding area.
"He has truly fallen in love with it," Justice said. "He's all over the property looking at properties here that he wants to buy and build a home here."
Justice said Watson told him he didn't know what to expect on his first visit to West Virginia. To see him become completely enamored with the area was a testament to the state and its people.
"It's just what the Greenbrier is really all about," Justice said. "The Greenbrier is simply just this: It's family.
"And these amenities that we have here, the Greenbrier itself - the people, the kindness, the love . . . that's just so gravitating to lots and lots and lots of players."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at email@example.com or 304-348-4836.