Justice all smiles this week
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- At 1:30 p.m., Monday, Jim Justice strutted to the No. 1 tee box at the Old White TPC golf course and joined PGA Tour professional John Daly and friends Jeff Kmiec and John Klemish.
After Klemish hit a shot into the crowd down the left side of the fairway, Justice threw down his club and hat and proclaimed 'Already?' -- a comment that drew a robust laugh from the crowd.
Then, Justice stepped to the tee box and ripped a long drive that hugged the left edge of the fairway before turning to the crowd and saying 'That's power golf.'
He was fun, he was charismatic, he was simply Jim Justice a few days before his PGA Tour showcase event, The Greenbrier Classic.
The smiles and jokes were a stark contrast to the same time last year when Justice, owner of The Greenbrier Resort, and his crew had been up around the clock for nearly four days straight trying to clear the remnants of a powerful derecho storm that left 50 trees strewn about the golf course and also left much of the Greenbrier Valley without power for weeks.
"Oh gosh, it was terrible and, to be perfectly honest, I've said it a bunch of times, no one -- especially me -- could've realized how bad it was," Justice said. "So many people suffered for so long, it was unbelievable. To get this event and pull it off (last year), I thought it was important to do it for our state. We had a lot of hustle and everything and we got it done, but it was a tough time. That's for sure."
One year after the storm, the course is in terrific shape -- some players even saying it's the best they've seen it.
That aspect, plus getting tournament week started once again, brought smiles to Justice's face.
Still, he maintained -- almost defiantly -- that the days leading up to this year's tournament were no less stressful than the days leading up to last year when Mother Nature had ravaged the course.
"There's nothing that's breath-easy about this," Justice said. "I told the lady who is my executive assistant, 'If you're not nervous about this, you're not breathing.' That's all there is to it. There's a lot that goes on here, that's for sure."
Surely, it couldn't be true. Could it?.
The days leading up to the 2013 tournament matching the intensity of 2012 and all that had to be overcome -- including a 100-foot tree laying over top of the 16th green less than 96 hours prior to the tournament's start?
Daly explained why the bold statement by Justice could definitely be true.
"He does more than he needs to do or what he has to do," Daly said. "It's 120 percent effort out of 100 percent and Jimmy gives it to everyone here. That's why everybody loves him."
It was hard to argue with Daly.
Justice greeted the golfers, then the media and then the fans as he ushered in the fourth installment of The Greenbrier Classic.
Even then, he turned his attention to Daly, who was continuing the annual practice of playing in the Pro-Am with Justice.
"I've got to golf with John," Justice said. "I don't know how in the world he puts up with me, but I've got to play with him."
Over the past three years, Daly and Justice have become good friends. This year Daly is competing in the tournament on a sponsor exemption for the second consecutive time as he works to get his PGA Tour Card back.
Daly spoke of why The Greenbrier Classic is special to him. Last year, The Greenbrier Classic provided one of Daly's best finishes as he was 10-under-par in a tie for 12th place.
The 2013 season has been a bit more of a struggle as Daly has made just four of 11 cuts with a top finish of a tie for 50th.
He hopes to change that at a course he's played well at recently.
"It sets up well for me," Daly said. "I played okay last year. I didn't putt very good, but that's been the trend the last couple of years -- that I haven't been putting very good.
"If I can putt halfway-decent, it could be a pretty good week because I feel like I'm hitting it pretty good."
As Justice finished speaking with media members, Daly uncorked a bomb down the right side of the fairway that backed up his words of striking the ball well.
Justice stood and smiled as he watched the ball in flight. He knew the loud sound off the club from the Loudmouth-brand sponsored Daly meant the 2013 Greenbrier Classic was officially underway.
For one week, the state of West Virginia is the center of the golf world again.
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