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The Greenbrier shines for all W.Va.

ONE of the best commercials for West Virginia airs this weekend, as CBS televises the Saturday and Sunday rounds of the Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour event.

CBS will devote at least six hours of airtime to the tournament.

While the vast majority of the coverage will be of the golfers on the pristine Old White course, there will also be plenty of cutaway and beauty shots of the regal resort, the manicured grounds and the lush and picturesque Greenbrier Valley.

Additionally, Jim Nantz, the respected host of CBS's golf coverage, will likely include myriad references to West Virginia. Notably last year, Nance managed to insert a line about "almost heaven."

Indeed, the historic, and now refurbished Greenbrier Resort is like a piece of heaven with its luxury amenities and exquisite dining.

Certainly there is no other place like it in West Virginia, and few resorts in the world that can match the history, charm, elegance and hospitality of the Greenbrier.

True, the pricey resort is out of reach for the vast majority of West Virginians, and no doubt a few West Virginians even resent this oasis of privilege.

But for a state whose image has taken more than its share of beatings, the Greenbrier serves as a jewel that puts West Virginia in the most positive light.

Nearly two million people watched CBS's coverage on the final Sunday a year ago, as tour rookie Scott Stallings sank a birdie putt on 18 to force a playoff, then made another birdie on the same hole for a dramatic win.

This year, with Tiger Woods in the tournament, viewership could increase dramatically.

For example, the audience for last Sunday's coverage of the AT&T National tournament rose 188 percent from the previous year because Woods was in the hunt, and eventually won.

Important tour players rave about the Greenbrier. Woods used his press conference to speak reverently about Sam Snead, the long-time club pro and pro-emeritus at the Greenbrier, and to say how excited he was to finally play here.

Phil Mickelson said of the Greenbrier and the Classic, "It's a fun golf course to play, great resort and really a wonderful event, one of the best events we have on the tour, and it's only in its third year . . . pretty amazing what's been done here."

Credit must go to Jim Justice, the extroverted owner who has opened his considerable wallet to save the resort from closure and make the tournament one of the classiest non-major events on the tour.

The big-name golfers, the top-talent concerts, the July 4th week date, the over-the-top fireworks — all make the Greenbrier Classic one of most exceptional events annually in West Virginia.

Justice and his hard-working crew know that their state is on display, and they want West Virginia to shine.

The best news about the tournament, and for West Virginia, may have come before play began, when Justice and the PGA Tour announced an extension through 2021, six more years than originally scheduled.  

That makes the Greenbrier Classic the longest tournament commitment on the PGA Tour.   It guarantees that CBS will be here on Saturday and Sunday once a year for the next nine years.

The value of that to the state is almost incalculable.

Many of us in West Virginia try hard to put our best foot forward, to be ambassadors so that others will see and experience what we love about our state.

It can be a challenge at times, but the job is made easier with the Greenbrier Classic leading the way.

Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday. The show can be heard locally on WCHS 580 AM.


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