Justice's lofty goals being met for Greenbrier Classic
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Greenbrier owner Jim Justice has seen a vision come to fruition over the past three years, building the Greenbrier Classic into the biggest sporting event in the state and into a premier event on the PGA Tour.
From Phil Mickelson to Tiger Woods, from Tom Watson to Sergio Garcia, heck, even from Fergie to Rod Stewart, the Classic has attracted some the biggest stars from the world of golf and beyond.
Indeed, The Greenbrier and the Classic have a little something for everyone, and that's been one of Justice's selling points all along.
While Justice has helped create the state's biggest spectacle, he said his main goal for the tournament was much more modest and heartfelt.
"What I want to accomplish is, I want the average everyday West Virginian to be able to hold his head or her head just a little higher and be proud of themselves, and then I want the world to see how good we really are," Justice said.
"This is a special place, a really special place. It's got really good, special people - craftsmen. A lot of times we're overlooked and I'd kind of like to change that."
Whether or not he can sway public perception of an entire area is yet to be seen, but as evidenced by the enormous amount of work put into The Greenbrier since he took over in May of 2009, the guy is willing to embrace and create a little change.
Some of that change can be seen in the layout of the Old White TPC.
After Stuart Appleby shredded the course with a final-round 59 to win the inaugural event in 2010, critics screamed for the course to be toughened up.
Justice obliged as Old White was lengthened, the rough was thickened and the greens were redone, resulting in higher scores over the next couple of years.
But the fact is, Old White TPC is always going to be gettable to a certain extent, especially for the world's best, and that's just fine with Justice.
"I really honestly believe that the Old White has a way that if you opt to try to attack it, it will bite you, and if you let it come to you, it will reward you," Justice said. "I think that's the marks of a great, great golf course. If you really attack it, and you're fighting with nerves and stress to make that par-saving putt after you've knocked it 6 feet by, and it's got two breaks in it and some grain in it, it can really bite you.
"Last year we put irrigation in the rough and the rough is getting tougher and tougher, but we want people to make birdies. You could grow this rough out to 4 or 5 inches, honest to God you could just bring people to their knees here because the greens are firm and you could make this a monster test, but we want people to make birdies. We want this to be a fun place."
Much of the first three years of the Greenbrier Classic was dedicated to marketing, spreading the word and getting top-notch golfers and entertainers into the fold.
Justice for one feels the goal of exposure has been accomplished.
"I honestly believe that - and I don't say this in egotistical way - but anybody that wouldn't want to come to the Greenbrier Classic, they're living in a cave somewhere," Justice said. "It's just a great tournament on a great course with all the tradition and history in the world you could have. As far as how they're treated and all amenities and not having to drive all over world to get with their families, it's a special place, that's just all there is to it. We want to continue to strive to be best on tour.
"The word is surely out."
While the tournament has reached dizzying heights already, Justice insists that he will continue to strive to make the event even bigger.
"It's just like anything in life: If you maintain your enthusiasm and passion for what you're doing - if you try to not lose the game, you're going to lose some games," Justice said. "I don't play anything to not lose the game, I play every game to win the game. If I'm coaching, you wont see me very often do something to where I'm sitting there thinking, 'I've got to do everything I can do not to lose the game.' I don't play that way and I don't play that way in my business stuff. I believe if I'm going to lose my passion, lose my edge, lose my enthusiasm and not grow to get better, I'm not going to do it."