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Golf Channel's lead announcer familiar with The Greenbrier

Jul. 31, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Rich Lerner of The Golf Channel knew viewers would be impressed by what they saw if they tuned in to watch The Greenbrier Classic.

Lerner is the lead announcer for the cable network and called the action Thursday and Friday from the Old White course at The Greenbrier Resort. He shared the tower behind the 18th green with Nick Faldo.

Thirteen years ago, Lerner and his three brothers gave their dad, Les, a trip to The Greenbrier as a 70th birthday present. They played a round of golf on Old White course. During their round, golf legend Sam Snead, who called the Greenbrier his home, played a couple of holes with the Lerners' dad.

"He was thrilled and really enjoyed it," Lerner said.

At that time, Lerner ran a driving range and miniature golf course for his dad in Allentown, Pa.

Just as he did then, Lerner today is taking advantage of all the amenities the resort has to offer before he goes on the air. He said other Golf Channel staffers are doing the same.

"It's like going to summer camp," he said Friday morning during a workout break in the Tennis Center. He said fellow Golf Channel staffers have visited the Gun Club (trap and skeet shooting), taken the bunker tour (U.S. Government Relocation facility) under the West Wing in the hotel, played tennis, bungee jumped and played golf along with other activities.

Lerner said the backdrop with the resort and historic Old White course built by C.B. McDonald (1914) and Seth Raynor and renovated by Lester George served as a magnet to attract players to the majestic setting in the Appalachian Mountains.

"From what I hear from players and families, they are enjoying this. They love it," he said.

Since Lerner was familiar with The Greenbrier, it didn't surprise him that new resort owner Jim Justice secured a six-year deal with the PGA Tour. The slot opened when the Buick Open ceased operations after the 2009 tournament.

"I'm glad they were able to fill the hole so quickly," Lerner said. "They came to a great resort."

While fans and viewers hoped to see Tiger Wood and Phil Mickelson this week, the top two players in the world are not here. Jim Furyk, No. 5 in the FedExCup standings, has the loftiest position of the players here.

Lerner said life will go on without Tiger and Lefty.

"Too much is made of it," he said. "There are so many good players around the world now. Are all the best here? No. Paul Goydos (who shot a 59 in the John Deere Classic earlier this season) said this tournament could have 10 major championship winners in the field some day. You don't know who they are because they haven't won yet."

Old White, following the second George makeover, was stretched to 7,031 yards. Most of the distance was gained by building new tees. Low scores were predicted and so far there's plenty of red (under-par) numbers on the scoreboard. There were 81 sub-par rounds Thursday, with 97 players posting par or better.

"You see a variety of courses every week," Lerner said. "It's like baseball. People see a 13-10 slugfest and they're entertained. You see a 2-1 pitcher's duel and it's a different reaction. I like the variety. This is an interesting course with great history and characteristics and features you don't see every week."

Lerner lives in Orlando and has been with The Golf Channel since 1997. In addition to working in the tower, Lerner does commentary and interviews at tournaments and handles assignments in the Orlando studio.