FedEx Invitational Golf

Bubba Watson was announced Monday as one of the first players to commit to A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, the resort’s PGA Tour event in September.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — At the 2018 tournament, officials at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier announced the PGA tournament would move from the week of July 4 to later in the year. Those dates were nailed down this spring, with the event officially moving to Sept. 12-15.

Since then, rumors and rumblings have flown regarding the tournament’s status on the PGA Tour, and Greenbrier officials responded to those questions Monday.

While announcing several new features of the tournament – and a couple of players committed to play — the Greenbrier, primarily behind public relations director Cam Huffman and tournament executive director Robert Harris — reiterated that the tournament will be as big as ever.

“We have something for everyone,” Harris said.

The primary question was how the move would affect the quality of the player field. Currently, A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier is the first Tour stop on the 2019-2020 calendar, just three weeks after the Tour Championship ends the current season.

Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner were confirmed as participants Monday, as well as West Virginia Amateur champion Mason Williams, Big 12 Conference champion Hayden Springer of TCU and Haskins Award winner Matthew Wolff of Oklahoma State. Also, all prior champions are expected to play.

That was it for player announcements and though it remains to be seen how the field will ultimately shape up compared to player fields in the past, the belief among the tournament’s representatives is that the date change will work toward their advantage.

“What we’ve heard is that everybody is excited about this tournament,” Huffman said. “Over the years on July 4, we’ve heard a lot of players say, ‘We want to come, but that just doesn’t work for me.’ A lot of those players have reached back out and said this is a perfect opportunity to come.”

A Military Tribute now will have to compete with football on its weekend. Football Bowl Subdivision teams Virginia Tech (Furman, noon), West Virginia University (N.C. State, noon) and Marshall (Ohio, 6:30 p.m.) all host games that Saturday. Area high school football teams have games on Friday and the NFL plays Sunday.

But instead of competing, Huffman and company insisted that they will embrace being in the heart of football season, airing games all weekend on screens around the Old White TPC.

“We want it to be a part of this tournament,” Huffman said. “There is plenty of time for people to get here and watch some golf before heading out to high school games on Friday night.”

Though the move took the tournament away from Fourth of July week, there will still be plenty of events with a patriotic flavor. Tom Ridge, the former governor of Pennsylvania and the first United States Director of Homeland Security, was named the tournament’s honorary chairman.

Wednesday’s pro-am will fall on Sept. 11 and at 8:46 a.m., play will stop with a moment of silence. A trumpeter will play “Taps,” followed by a rendition of “God Bless America.” A parade through White Sulphur Springs and onto the Greenbrier property will follow that evening.

New features have also been put in place in an effort to improve convenience. Parking for the event will be in White Sulphur Springs instead of at the state fairgrounds in Lewisburg this year. Also, electronic tickets are available for patrons and the course’s main retail area will be moved from beside the driving range to beside the clubhouse, making the walk much shorter. Bleachers with a combined capacity of 600 will also be added with stands being built behind the fifth green, behind the 11th and 15th tee boxes and behind the 17th green.

Other news and notes from Monday’s press conference:

n A new logo for the tournament will be unveiled in the coming weeks featuring the Greenbrier’s Spring House with eight stars arched above it. Those stars represent the five branches of the military as well as the police department, fire department and emergency medical technicians.

n Also to be unveiled soon is a new trophy made of blown glass by Alex Brand. While no images of the trophy were available yet, Harris said it would feature a red and white base, solid center section with eight sides and bearing eight shields for the military branches, police, firefighters and EMTs and a big red bowl on top. The trophy will be delivered by the U.S. Army in a dramatic way on the final day of the tournament, but no details were revealed on Monday.

n The coinciding Greenbrier Champions Tennis Classic, scheduled for Friday and Saturday the week of the tournament, had a personnel change as well. Serena Williams was forced to pull out of the event with a scheduling conflict and she will be replaced by Maria Sharapova.

n A last fact came to light involving the tournament’s current contract. By all reports, it was set to expire in 2021 but according to Huffman, it was extended again sometime in the summer of 2017 and will now run through 2026.

n Artifacts and photos from the Sept. 11th tragedy will be brought in as well. Greenbrier County schools will let out on Wednesday giving students a chance to go to the grounds and learn about the terrorist attacks.

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazettemail.com or follow him @RPritt on Twitter.