West Virginia’s PGA Tour stop is no more.
The Greenbrier announced Tuesday morning that the resort and the PGA have mutually agreed to cancel the remainder of the resort’s contract with the association, scheduled to run through 2026.
What started as The Greenbrier Classic and became A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier ends with the 2019 tournament.
“We are happy to reach a resolution with the PGA Tour that is mutually beneficial to both parties in this time of crisis,” Greenbrier President Dr. Jill Justice said in a release from the resort.
The Greenbrier and the Tour decided that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event would be canceled for its Sept. 7-13 date.
The Safeway Open in Napa, California, announced Wednesday that it would run on that date.
As for canceling the rest of the contract, the Greenbrier release stated that, with the tournament’s move from the Independence Day weekend to the fall, “the attractiveness for sponsors and the attendance for fans dropped significantly.”
In its early years, the Greenbrier Classic was a powerful and popular tour stop.
In 2012, both Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were in the field, though both missed the cut. Other notable golfers in previous fields included Vijay Singh, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Reed.
The tournament also conducted concerts during its week that included acts like Aerosmith, Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood and Maroon 5.
In later years, though, the concerts disappeared. The tournament took a crushing blow in 2016 when it was forced to cancel due to the heavy flooding throughout West Virginia that severely impacted Greenbrier County.
The tournament returned in 2017. In 2018, the tournament was renamed A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier to honor the United States military and the country’s first responders. In 2019, it was moved to September as part of shuffling of the PGA Tour schedule.
It skipped the 2018-19 PGA Tour season and returned to start the 2019-20 Tour season. With the prep football season in full swing and both Marshall and WVU playing home football games that weekend, attendance on the final day was sparse as Joaquin Niemann won what became the final Greenbrier tournament championship.
“We owe a supreme debt of gratitude to Governor Jim Justice and his Greenbrier resort for a highly successful 10 years of partnership with the PGA Tour,” said Andy Pazder, Executive Vice President and Chief of Operations for the PGA Tour. “Governor Justice’s vision and leadership helped shine a light on the men and women that serve our country through the military and first responder programs he implemented through the tournament, and The Greenbrier resort was an incredibly unique and world-class venue that our players will always remember and cherish.”
Since the tournament’s inception, winners of the West Virginia Amateur were granted exemptions starting with Jonathan Bartlett in the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010. Area golfers like Christian Brand (Charleston), Sam O’Dell (Hurricane) and Pat Carter (Barboursville) were among those that earned the opportunity to compete against touring professionals in White Sulphur Springs. Last year, 19-year-old Mason Williams of Bridgeport won the Amateur and made his Tour debut at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
Bartlett was the only player to make the cut among in-state amateurs, but the exemption certainly added more luster to the state’s premier amateur event that will be held for the 101st time at the end of July.
“Hearing Paul Moran, a past president of the West Virginia Golf Association and the official starter introduce our state amateur champion, that’s something I’ll always remember,” Brad Ulman, executive director of the WVGA said. “We got to see Christian Brand, Sam O’Dell, Pat Carter, Jonathan Bartlett and others play against the world’s best. How special of an opportunity given by The Greenbrier to allow an amateur golfer that once-in-a-lifetime experience. It certainly added an extra buzz to our championship, but also an extra buzz for the entire state of West Virginia.”
O’Dell, a four-time winner of the West Virginia Amateur, made two starts in the tournament, playing in 2015 and 2018. A former standout at Marshall and now a dentist, O’Dell said the experiences will certainly last a lifetime.
“It was a couple of the best weeks of my life,” O’Dell said. “I still think it was a great thing for our state as far as amateur golf goes. It had to make some of the juniors want to work even a little harder.
“Just the people and how much support you got from the state, that made you feel special. Walking into the locker room and seeing your name. It was so neat. It was like something happened every couple of hours that made you think, ‘Wow.’”