Greenbrier Classic: New directors off to strong start
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The overused term "well-oiled machine" might not be such a cliché when it comes to the Greenbrier Classic.
In its fourth year at the Old White TPC, the tournament has lost a tournament director but not any ground.
Tim McNeely spent six years as the tournament director for the Nationwide Tour event at Bridgeport's Pete Dye Golf Club.
He accepted the same position with the Greenbrier Classic in 2010. After three years, he accepted the spot of athletic director at Fairmont State University in March, leaving a void in White Sulphur Springs.
Enter the youthful duo of Monte Ortel and Ernest Saeger.
Ortel was an assistant to McNeely during the first three Classics before becoming tournament director. Saeger was director of operations for the Greenbrier Classic in 2010 and 2011 before heading to upstate New York to join a marketing firm.
Saeger returned this year as the assistant tournament director, and together they are at the Greenbrier helping to make the transition an easy one.
"The transition has gone extremely smooth," said Ortel, a 33-year-old graduate of Slippery Rock University whose first love had been basketball. "The biggest part is the travel, flying to different PGA Tour events in a player-recruiting capacity."
Among the road trips Ortel made this year was for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans (April 25-28), the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C. (May 2-5), the Players Championship in Ponte Verda Beach, Fla. (May 9-12), and the Memorial in Dublin, Ohio (May 30-June 2).
Among the players committed to the 2013 Classic are 41-time PGA Tour event winner Phil Mickelson and three-time PGA Tour major winner Vijay Singh. The deadline for players to commit is 5 p.m. the Friday before the event, which is June 28 for the Classic.
Saeger is just 29 years old and returns to White Sulphur Springs after taking a year away from the event. He joined a sports marketing firm in upstate New York, but missed the Greenbrier Classic. During his first two years on the staff, he was operations manager, which includes setting up the golf course, parking ... "all the fun," he said.
"I liked the job up there, but I missed this," Saeger said. "I love this job. It's exciting, you can be creative, there's always something new, always a problem to solve and there's always a way to make it better."
Much like Ortel, his responsibilities have increased with his promotion, but he also stays involved with multiple aspects of the tournament.
"I kind of touch a little bit of everything," said the Binghamton, N.Y., native and Ithaca College graduate. "We have a lot of vendors and staff, hotel employees and I try to help them out."
He shares responsibility for helping the Classic earn the PGA Tour's Best in Class honor in 2011.
Despite the pair's youthfulness, Ortel and Saeger aren't overwhelmed by the duties.
Ortel said the experience is invigorating, but the plan remains the same.
"It's exciting, challenging, motivating," he said. "I set high goals for this event and I like doing the things I need to do to accomplish those goals."
The Greenbrier Classic debuted in 2010 with a six-year contract, but was extended through 2021 last year.
Tiger Woods played in the 2012 Classic, but, like Mickelson, missed the cut.
Ted Potter Jr. returns this year to defend his title, the first PGA Tour championship of his career.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.