WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - One goal of the PGA Tour Wives Association is assisting people in need.
The wives were in all parts of the country in late June 2016 when devastating flooding caused by record rainfall throughout West Virginia caused extensive damage to The Greenbrier resort, the Old White TPC golf course and the town of White Sulphur Springs. The Greenbrier Classic was canceled for 2016. The wives watched and read about all the destruction.
Restoration began and Old White TPC opened for play the first time Monday when players in The Greenbrier Classic had practice rounds.
Several tour wives took a Tuesday shuttle downtown to see some of the areas impacted and rebuilt since the flood and attend a luncheon. The rebuilding process is ongoing. Brittany Kisner, wife of pro Kevin Kisner, presented a monetary donation to the ongoing Neighbors Loving Neighbors relief effort. She handed Habibi Mamone, who started the NLN project and is executive director of the PGA Tour FedExCup event, a check for $5,000.
"We do have a bit of a traveling-circus lifestyle. We go to communities each week and make it our home," Brittany Kisner said. "One of the most welcoming communities has always been White Sulphur Springs and The Greenbrier. We've always felt that hospitality. It's like coming home each summer.
"When we heard about the devastation of the flood and the cancellation of the tournament, everyone was upset and wondering what we can do. Angie (Watson, wife of PGA Tour member Bubba Watson) brought to our attention Neighbors Loving Neighbors. We found out what a wonderful organization it was and the immediate impact it was making. We wanted to pitch in."
A CBS Sports video about the flood and recovery effort was shown at the luncheon. The video showed people who lost their homes and first responders who arrived to provide assistance in chaotic times.
CBS Sports golf lead announcer Jim Nantz was the voice for the video.
"That's the kind of story people need to see," said Nantz. "This is what the Fourth of July is all about. I'm always all red, white and blue. This is what America is about. What happened and the recovery effort from an awful tragedy. It's a reflection on the best of this country. I look forward to reminding viewers about last year, telling people case by case some of those amazing stories."
Nantz, who served as emcee for the luncheon, arrived on site early to start preparations for tournament telecasts that are Thursday and Friday on Golf Channel before moving to CBS for the final rounds Saturday and Sunday. Nantz said he'll separate golf from the moving flood recovery story.
"We'll be coming in and out of commercials with stories to tell," Nantz said. "We're already working on that. There's a fine balance. There's tremendous sadness. I wanted this day to be uplifting. I came in early to get an exposure to the first responders and the people affected by it. I'll try to get the right temperature to where we are this week."
James Hoyer, adjutant general for the West Virginia National Guard, spoke at the luncheon and presented honorary brigadier awards to Mamone and Jenny Gannaway, executive director of West Virginia VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster).
Bubba and Angie Watson, who have a home at the Greenbrier Sporting Club, were involved with the recovery effort.
"This is a celebration," Bubba Watson said. "We fell in love with this place. I wrote a big check. It's a community we call home. We saw what happened, we huddled in JJ's (Jim Justice, Greenbrier owner and West Virginia governor) office and said, 'How can we help?' This tournament is beautiful. This is America's resort. This tournament is about how great West Virginia is, and the people of White Sulphur Springs.
"How people come together put smiles on our faces. They show up for work every day even though they lost everything. I was inspired by it so much. I learned so much from the tragedy. Not just White Sulphur Springs, the whole state was in trouble real fast from that storm. It's just an honor to be here today and see the transformation from a year ago to today. It's absolutely amazing.
"I applaud everybody in the great state of West Virginia, White Sulphur Springs, the surrounding counties. It's an honor to know you, see how you lived through it and worked to get it better and better each day."
Angie Watson also pitched in from the start. She was amazed at what people did for her when she would show up.
"I was expecting to help, but what people did for me was more astounding," she said. "It's the true definition of hospitality and love. I walked into people's houses who'd lost everything a couple days before and they had coffee for me, lunch for me. They showed me love. It's what West Virginia is all about. I'm so blessed and honored to be a part of this state."
Ray Blackburn is a Wendy's franchise owner. He has the one located on U.S. Route 60 just off Interstate 64. His business was destroyed, but he's back up and running now. Wendy's made a $40,000 donation to the relief effort early on. Blackburn said franchise owners in the Mountain State decided to do more fundraising. Part of sales from June 23-29 went to the relief effort. Blackburn presented Mamone with a check for $84,305.
"Not only to see my store, but to see my town now - wow." Blackburn said. "Almost Heaven was almost destroyed. What I see now has brought tears to my eyes."
Blackburn told people at the luncheon that 1,200 homes were lost and 600 have been rebuilt.
"We're far from done," he said.