By DAVID WALSH
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – For Ken Tackett, the Monday sights and sounds at The Greenbrier Resort sure beat what he saw late last June after a devastating flood caused by record rainfall.
Tackett, who is from Charleston, is in his fourth year as a PGA Tour rules official. He was at home last June when flooding first hit the Elkview and Clendenin areas. He heard about what went down at The Greenbrier, so he made a trip to America’s resort to assess the damage for the PGA Tour.
Monday, Tackett was at work in the PGA Tour rules trailer. He’s getting ready to work The Greenbrier Classic that begins Thursday on the restored Old White TPC. Monday was a practice day and marked the first time Old White TPC was in play since the flood that prompted the tour to cancel the 2016 Greenbrier Classic.
Tackett, like many others, took pictures of the damage done to the resort’s three golf courses, in town and the surrounding area. He then sent them out via his cell phone. In his mind, there was no doubt the 2016 Greenbrier Classic would not be played. That’s the message he relayed to then PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem.
“It was kind of easy to do,” Tackett said. “We had to determine what to do next. There was no way we could play. The loss of life, the destruction, damage outside of playing golf. The golf course was completely destroyed.”
Tackett is familiar with The Greenbrier Resort and its golf courses. Before going to work for the PGA Tour he was the executive director of the West Virginia Golf Association. The Greenbrier was the home for the West Virginia Amateur.
Since Tackett knew the facility, he also knew the director of golf course maintenance. He had faith Kelly Shumate, along with architect Keith Foster who came in for the restoration process, would get the course ready for a PGA Tour stop in 2017.
“Why? I think it’s the maintenance staff and direction here,” Tackett said. “The tenacity, the willingness to get the job done is as good as it gets in the country. It’s why they’re considered among the best there is. When Jim Justice (West Virginia governor and Greenbrier owner) wants to get something done, things happen. It’s his type of get-it-done behavior and attitude.”
All through the restoration process, rumors circulated Old White TPC would not be ready in time. Tackett didn’t have his faith shaken.
Tackett said what’s impressive is all 18 holes play the same. There are all new greens, bunkers were removed or relocated,
fescue was been removed and some tees are now in play. Par is 70, but the course measures 7,286 yards now. The purse for the FedExCup event is $7.1 million. Danny Lee, who won in 2015, comes in as defending champion.
“All 18 holes are consistent,” Tackett said. “That’s very important in conducting competition at this level. It not seven holes one way, 11 the other.”
Golf fans not on site can see the remarkable turnaround for the resort and town Thursday through Sunday on national television. Golf Channel has the action Thursday and Friday and CBS takes over Saturday and Sunday.
“When people flip on the TV this weekend, they’re just going to be blown away,” Tackett said.
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