Stuart Appleby shot a final-round 59 to win the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
By HOPPY KERCHEVAL
MORGANTOWN — We West Virginians are protective of our state. Ridicule and even lesser slights are like emotional arrows that can pierce even a hide that’s been toughened over years of abuse.
But we also easily turn our faces to the sunny warmth that comes with state success. And the just-completed Greenbrier Classic PGA Tournament has given all of West Virginia a reason to be proud.
I knew when, during CBS’s coverage of the tournament, I heard Jim Nantz refer to “the great state of West Virginia” that the event was, indeed, going to be one of the most important makeovers for the state in recent memory.
Well done image advertising works; that’s why companies spend billions in the media telling consumers about their products and services. But the most effective advertising is credible testimony. The CBS and Golf Channel announcers’ heartfelt positive comments about the Greenbrier and the state were invaluable.
The images of the manicured grounds, the colorful flower beds, the throngs of fans, all communicated a classy, major event in our state.
You had to love the shot by CBS of the iconic Jerry West chatting with another former WVU basketball great, Da’Sean Butler, in the stands. Here were two of West Virginias greatest sports figures endorsing the event by their mere presence.
True, the Greenbrier is not like the rest of the state; it is a lavish complex that is well beyond the means of most West Virginians. But that does not make it any less a part of the state, especially because the new owner, Jim Justice, is all West Virginian.
Justice’s West Virginia twang, informality, passion for the state and his drive to succeed accurately reflect who we are. He just happens to have a few hundred million dollars more than the rest of us.
I’m told Justice can be a tough task master. He demands perfection and those who fail to share his drive for that high standard are quickly shown the door. That can be harsh, but you cannot achieve what Justice is trying to accomplish by being a milquetoast.
Justice, his dedicated employees and volunteers made the tournament as much about our state as the Greenbrier. From the immaculate Old White golf course, to the amenities of the luxurious resort, to the concerts featuring the biggest names in entertainment (Brad Paisley, Reba and Rascal Flatts), this was about what West Virginia could do.
Our state’s natural beauty and hospitality were channeled through the Greenbrier. State House of Delegates member Don Perdue (D-Wayne) volunteered during the tournament. After a week at the Greenbrier he concluded, “Justice has done a hell of a thing.”
He has, and the benefits will be felt directly and indirectly by the state for years.
Yes, there will be times in the future when we will again be the target of ridicule; one never knows when the next Jesco White movie will be released. But the success of the Greenbrier Classic and the positive image of the state broadcast by the national media should give all of us in West Virginia an emotional lift.
Kercheval is host of TalkLine, broadcast by the MetroNews Statewide Radio Network from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.