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Tomblin's Pro-Am Tournament performance rough

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -- Stuart Appleby is remembered as the guy who shot a 59 during the 2010 Greenbrier Classic.

This year, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin might be remembered as the guy who shot the ball 59 times into the creek.

While Tomblin might know his way around the statehouse, The Old White TPC gave him more troubles Wednesday than a Republican filibuster.

Though he didn't actually shoot the ball 59 times into the creek -- no one was counting -- the haggard look on Tomblin's face as he walked off the 18th green certainly made it feel that way.

"I prefer to fish," the governor joked.

Tomblin was at The Greenbrier Wednesday to participate in the Greenbrier Classic's annual Pro-Am Tournament. He'd been fortunate to skirt the event during his last two years in office.

Tomblin was busy managing the state's response to the devastating derecho last year. State business kept him in Charleston the year before.

But Wednesday, Tomblin joined Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Greenbrier Sporting Club real estate chief Jim Klemish on a team partnered with Master's winner Bubba Watson.

Tomblin played his first game of golf about 15 years ago, and has been a casual player ever since. This was only the third time Tomblin has been on the course.

Staff privately confessed the governor was nervous in the days leading up to the event.

It didn't help he was partnered with three people who have had significantly more time to hone their game.

This was Beshear's second appearance at the Greenbrier Pro-Am -- a seasoned amateur, he said there's no Pro-Am event like it in Kentucky -- and Watson is, well, the guy who won The Master's last year.

Watson said the crowds seemed to make both Beshear and Tomblin tense up -- one more than the other.

"If you watched the golf today, you saw one governor was struggling -- not to call out any names -- and one governor was playing pretty good," Watson said.

"They're pretty nervous with the crowds watching and everything -- they're not used to that," he said.

While Watson was significantly better than him, Tomblin said he was fun to play with.

"He's a great guy -- very good sense of humor, very down to earth -- he really worked the crowds as we went," Tomblin said.

"It was the golfing part that we had a big difference on -- he's good and I'm bad."

It wasn't all bad for Tomblin, though.

Both of his attempts to hit off the 16th tee went about 10 feet and landed in a pond, but his drive off the 17th crossed the creek and landed close to the fairway.

His shot off the 17th came as state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato watched his boss from the deck of the Howard's Creek Lodge near the tee.

After Tomblin realized his shot wasn't too bad, he turned to Gianato, threw out his arms and took a bow.

The celebration was short-lived, though.

Tomblin's club made a mighty swoosh as he tried to drive off the 18th tee, connecting with everything but the ball.

He grimaced and swung again.

And missed.

Then swung again.

And missed.

Then swung again -- a hit, but straight into the creek.

A seasoned politician, Tomblin didn't let his struggles get him down.

As he walked the course, he took time to shake the hands and sign autographs from people lining the course's ropes. He thanked out-of-state visitors for coming to the tournament and invited them to come back to the state sometime soon.

That -- not his golf game -- was what he hoped those watching on the course and on TV will take away from the event.

"It really gives us a chance to showcase what we have here in the state," Tomblin said. "I think the more people hear about it the more will come to The Greenbrier and the state."

Contact writer Jared Hunt at or 304-348-4836.


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