CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After a decade of helping bring the state of West Virginia into the highest levels of professional golf, Greenbrier Classic director Tim McNeely has accepted the athletic director position at Fairmont State.University president Maria Rose announced the hiring Thursday."They approached me recently about an opportunity and, frankly, it was an opportunity to spread my wings a little bit, professionally," McNeely said Thursday. "I have been working with the PGA Tour for 10 years now, and this gave me an opportunity to branch out into other areas of sports administration and sports management."After some thought and analysis with my family, we decided it was the right move at this time."
In moving from Greenbrier County to Fairmont, he certainly will return to his roots. A four-year basketball letterman at West Virginia University with sport management and law degrees, McNeely has family in Morgantown. The family of his wife, Sarah, is based in Bridgeport.McNeely was quick to point out that the move was not a split with resort owner Jim Justice, and he leaves on good terms."No, no, not at all," McNeely said. "To the contrary, I spoke to Mr. Justice and he was proud and very supportive. He understood the opportunity. He and I are great friends, and he'll continue to do great things with the folks he has here."McNeely first got involved with the PGA Tour while serving as deputy director and general counsel for the West Virginia Development Office in the Gov. Bob Wise administration. By 2004, he was running the first Pete Dye Classic, a tournament that grew into one of the top stops of the second-level Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour.The event at Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport grew into the Nationwide Tour Players Cup in 2008 and was that tour's first event to offer a $1 million purse, with $180,000 to the winner. But roughly two months after the 2009 Players Cup, new Greenbrier owner Justice landed an event on the big tour, which had an opening when sponsorship collapsed at Michigan's Buick Open.Justice brought McNeely to White Sulphur Springs to launch the tournament in 2010, and it has brought top players such as Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Webb Simpson to the state. Two players, Jim Furyk (2010) and Bob Estes (2011), played well en route to FedExCup championships.All three Classics have had classic endings - Stuart Appleby's winning 59 perked up the golf world and the last two tournaments have ended with Tour rookies winning playoffs.With the Greenbrier Classic Concert Series also bringing in some of the biggest names, crowds have been solid, even during the storm recovery of last year. Last year, the Classic's original six-year contract with the Tour was extended through 2021.McNeely departs as the winter (slowly) turns to spring in the Greenbrier Valley and preparations begin to ramp up. He had an office of five people, but received all manner of help from the resort staff."The good news is that it's still 100 days away," he said. "The bad news is that it's 100 days away. But it's not our first time at the rodeo."They won't miss a beat. It will continue to be the best tournament on the PGA Tour."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@ wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.