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July 2 2013

1:46 PM

Turf Talk: The Greenbrier Classic

A new tee box was added to the par-3 18th hole at The Old White TPC. It can now play up to 175 yards.
(Martin/Getty Images)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Rather than mourn the loss of a huge oak tree behind The Old White TPC’s 18th tee in severe storms last year, officials at The Greenbrier Resort found opportunity.

A new tee stands where the oak once did, creating a little extra challenge as players complete their rounds at The Greenbrier Classic.

“It allowed us to come in and build a new tee box with the angle that the tree left,” said Kelly Shumate, the resort’s director of golf course maintenance. “We gained valuable tee space. That tee at No. 18 was one of our smallest.”

One of just two par-3 finishing holes on the PGA TOUR, No. 18 now measures 175 yards from the back, a 13-yard increase from last year. According to Shumate, current plans are to use the new tee two days this week and two on the old tee.

“It created more options that they could move players around,” he said. “I think they’ll like it.”

The oak was one of 27 trees on The Old White TPC that were toppled last year by straight-line “derecho” winds that hit The Greenbrier three days before tournament week. None were in strategic spots on the course, though, and replacements were planted only where a big aesthetic void was left.

“We planted a few trees where we felt like the area was lacking something,” Shumate said. “But we didn’t replace them all. The Greenbrier is a big property that has thousands of trees. We replanted only ones that we felt were necessary.”

Other areas were filled in with fescue or other grasses growing in the immediate area, he added.

A cold spring has been Shumate’s biggest concern in preparing for this year’s event. Snow fell on The Greenbrier on April 20, and Shumate had to deal with frost up through Memorial Day weekend.

“That’s never happened since I’ve been here,” he said. “Usually you can kiss the snow goodbye as soon as you flip the calendar to March, but not this year. And even dating back to last year, we had a foot of snow in October.”

Heavy rains in early May also pushed The Old White’s aerification schedule back a couple of weeks, though it turned out to be a good thing. “The ground temperatures did rise about 11 degrees in that two-week period,” he said, “so it was a good call.”

Firm, fast conditions and cool temperatures have greeted players to start the week, though West Virginia’s typical summer thunderstorms are in the forecast for tournament days.

“We’d really like to dodge the rain,” Shumate said. “We’re hoping (the forecast) changes so the golf course can play a little firmer.”

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