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David Walsh: TV time good for Greenbrier, Marshall

Aug. 01, 2010 @ 12:26 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Oh, what television exposure can do for a sport.

Marshall football coach Doc Holliday knows what being on national television means for his Thundering Herd football program and the university.

He said the same holds true this week with The Golf Channel and CBS here bringing The Greenbrier Classic to a nationwide audience.

"Look what the exposure's done for Marshall," Holliday said Saturday before heading out to the Alumni Hospitality Tent located on the 12th hole on the Old White Course at The Greenbrier Resort. "It's the same thing for West Virginia and golf to get on television. People see a wonderful setting and great event. (Greenbrier owner) Jim Justice has done such a great job setting this up."

The Alumni Badge gets alums from Marshall, West Virginia, Virginia Tech and Virginia into a tent with a porch where they can eat, drink, watch golf and talk sports.

Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick was here Friday along with West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart and former assistant basketball coach Gary McPherson.

WVU visits Marshall in football on Sept. 10 and a packed house is expected at Joan C. Edwards Stadium for the Friday night contest. ESPN will televise the game.

When Hamrick looked out at the fans Friday, it made him think about the packed house he'll see when the Herd and Mountaineers collide.

"We'll have to go a little bit to top what I've seen here," he said, referring to the show Justice and his staff are putting on for players, families and spectators. "It'll still be a good opening night.

"This is unique. It's great for the state, it's great for the economy -- just like a Marshall-WVU football game."

The Alumni badges also get the holders admission to three concerts. Their university gets 30 percent of the proceeds.

Like Holliday, Stewart went around the tent area shaking hands and talking with fans.

"What Mr. Justice and his folks have done is unbelievable," he said. "There aren't enough adjectives to describe it. If you're from this part of the country and you don't like what you see, you don't like golf."

McPherson has a special connection to Tim McNeely, tournament director for The Greenbrier Classic. McNeely attended Mountaineer basketball camps during his final two seasons at Milton High School.

McPherson suggested to McNeely that he go to a prep school for a year first and McNeely settled on Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania. The next year, McNeely walked on at WVU, got on scholarship the next and lettered all four years under coach Gale Catlett.

"He's done a fantastic job in all his works," McPherson said.

McNeely first worked as a lawyer, then for the State of West Virginia and helped land the Nationwide Tour stop at Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport and now runs the Classic show.

"It does my heart good to have a little influence on someone and see them achieve their goals," McPherson said.

DAY THREE: West Virginia Amateur champion Jonathan Bartlett shot a 1-over 71 Saturday for a 54-hole total of 1-under 209. That won't be enough for him to survive the second cut, but he said he has no complaints.

"The round was out there, I didn't take it," said the Lewisburg resident who sells real estate at The Greenbrier Sporting Club. "These guys are the world's best. I play one day a week. I had a great time."

Each round Bartlett's following got bigger.

"I knew a lot of them and it was great to see," he said.

Bartlett concluded play with a bogey on the par-3 18th after his tee shot found the front right sand trap.

"I knew I wasn't going to play tomorrow. I was going for one last big shot," he said. "This was a great experience. I took advantage of every opportunity."

During the rounds, Bartlett did pass out business cards to the tour players.

"They all have homes in Florida," he said with a smile. "A lot of these guys need mountain homes."

FUN TIME: Barry Evans, head pro at Berry Hills Country Club in Charleston, shot 71 in both rounds for a 142 and missed the cut by four shots. He got an exemption by being the 2009 PGA Tri-State Section champion. His son, William, served as caddy.

"An awesome experience," Evans said.

He's played in seven PGA TOUR events, two PGA Championships and two Nationwide Tour events. Nothing, he said, compared to his two days on the par-70 Old White course and taking in all the surroundings as the days progressed.

"Of all the tour events I've played, this is the most fun I've had missing the cut," he said. "William had a lot of fun."



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