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Pro golfers will soon get to see new Old White TPC

By DAVID WALSH

The Herald-Dispatch

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Phil Mickelson has an idea of what to expect now. So does Lee Trevino. They’ve seen the transformation taking place.

Justin Thomas hits a shot from the tee box during the Greenbrier Classic Pro-Am in 2015. PGA Tour members will get their first peek at the new-look Old White TPC golf course July 3-9 when they return to compete in The Greenbrier Classic at The Greenbrier Resort.
(File photo by Sholten Singer)

PGA Tour members will get their first peek at the new-look Old White TPC golf course July 3-9 when they return to compete in The Greenbrier Classic at The Greenbrier Resort. Mickelson, winner of five major titles, is a member at The Greenbrier Sporting Club and serves as The Greenbrier’s Tour Ambassador. Trevino won six majors and 29 PGA Tour events in his career. He’s the pro emeritus at the resort.

Mickelson and Trevino were participants Monday in a Greenbrier Classic media day event inside the club’s Champions Room. They, along with director of golf Burt Baine, talked about how noted architect Keith Foster has brought Old White TPC back to life after the devastating flood in June 2016 wiped out the resort’s four courses. Flooding forced the PGA Tour to cancel the 2016 FedEx Cup tournament.

“No band-aid approach, no patch up and play,” Baine said, referring to how Greenbrier owner/West Virginia governor Jim Justice approached the undertaking. “The goal was to put it back into the condition it was before the flood.”

C.B. McDonald designed Old White TPC. It opened for play in 1914.

Every green complex was rebuilt; new grasses introduced to the greens, fairways and bunkers; fescue was removed from the edges of the bunkers while trees were selectively thinned to enhance views and sight lines. Kelly Shumate, director of the Greenbrier’s golf course maintenance, and his staff put in countless hours to get the course ready in less than a year. The media watched a video that showed what selected holes look like now. The much-talked about hump in the middle of the green on the par-3 18th hole is gone. Baine said the green looks like it has a giant thumb print in the middle.

“I know they did a helluva job,” Trevino said. “No vacations, 100-hour weeks. Like Phil said, it will get better and better. For the first time we’ll be able to use the best grasses out there. I build courses. I’ve mowed them since I was a young man. I know how difficult it is to bring a course back.”

With the new look of Old White TPC, all the notes players and caddies compiled over the first six years of the Greenbrier tournament won’t mean anything now. The course will play differently than what PGA Tour players remember.

“Some of the nuances have been enhanced,” Mickelson said. “Over time the placement of everything gets a little distorted with changes in equipment. All the little nuances will be more proper on a modern-day scale. This course has a lot of character. I don’t think it will be hokey or feel unnatural. There’ll be a lot of opportunities for multiple shot swings. Shot value is a more accurate test of today’s game. This is kind of an opportunity to make a very historical course look and feel the same, but play to a more modern-day test.

“You have to adjust to the elevation. The ball goes longer here. Distance control is important. You have to get it dialed in. My time here now helps. That’s one area I felt cost me in the past. I’ll talk to the Tour guys and try to get them to come here. It’s kind of our responsibility to show how far it’s come in a year. Bring the Greenbrier back to prominence.”

Baine’s video featured shots of the 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th holes. In addition to the hump being gone on No. 18, the two notable looks are the new bunker in back of the 17th green replacing the collection area and a new tee to the left of the lake on No. 16. Golfers won’t drive across the water anymore. The lake now borders the signature hole all the way down the right side. All greens are flatter, offering more possible pin placements.

“We keep the historic aspect. They (players) appreciate their architecture,” Baine said. “They’ll love the new Old White TPC.”

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