Oct. 17, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – With back-to-back tournament team championships and unprecedented consecutive individual titles, too, it’s been a very notable fall men’s golf season at Marshall.
The spring portion of the 2013-14 schedule for coach Matt Grobe’s team will make history, as well.
Marshall and Bowling Green State universities are joining forces to play host to the first Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational, which will be scheduled April 13-15 at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs.
The Greenbrier Collegiate will be played over 54 holes on the par-70 Old White TPC. It will be the first spring play on the famed C.B. Macdonald-designed, 7,287-yard layout that is the summer site of the PGA Tour’s $6.3 million Greenbrier Classic, which is scheduled through 2021.
College golf dual matches were once played at The Greenbrier, but according to resort historian and archivist Dr. Robert Conte, there is no evidence of a multi-team college tournament being played there – and collegiate competition hasn’t played at “America’s Resort” in six decades.
Each of the host schools has significant connections to The Greenbrier.
The Greenbrier chairman and owner, Jim Justice, is a Marshall alumnus and was a three-time Thundering Herd golf letterman (1972-74). Justice is a $5 million contributor to the Vision Campaign that is helping to provide new Herd athletic facilities.
Dr. Mary Ellen Mazey, the BGSU president, is a White Sulphur Springs native and West Virginia University alumna (and a former dean at WVU). Her mother worked at The Greenbrier for decades.
Mazey also has close ties to Marshall. Three of her cousins attended Marshall. One of her cousins, Gary Ambler, is currently a member of the MU Foundation Board of Directors. Ambler, a Ronceverte resident, is a former Herd baseball first baseman and is a Big Green Scholarship Foundation and M-Club member.
“I am delighted to be able to make The Greenbrier available for Marshall and Bowling Green State universities to host this prestigious new collegiate event,” Justice said. “During my time as a college golfer, I remember with fondness the opportunities we had to play special venues, and I know that the players who participate here will remember their time at The Greenbrier as a special moment.
“We hope to make The Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational one of the best college tournaments in the country. I know that the athletic departments at Marshall and Bowling Green State will do their part to support it and we are committed to providing a world-class venue for the competition.”
Grobe and Bowling Green’s Kevin Farrell were first-year coaches in their jobs last season and struck up a friendship that has led to The Greenbrier event. Farrell got the ball rolling “because we wanted to host a big tournament, something special.
“I knew Marshall had good ties to The Greenbrier, and we did, too. Dr. Mazey, our president, played a big part in this. So, I talked to people at The Greenbrier and Matt and I put our heads together to figure out how to make it work. It’s taken off from there.”
Farrell’s contacts were with Burt Baine, the resort’s golf club general manager, and Hill Herrick, head golf professional. “Those two were very instrumental in getting this off the ground,” Farrell said.
“Kevin and I became really good friends,” Grobe said. “We just kind of connected, maybe because we were new at our institutions and the relationship just got going. He had a connection at The Greenbrier, and said he’d love to co-host an event there with us.
“He said he thought it would be easier if we teamed up because we had the West Virginia connections and Mr. Justice went to school at Marshall. Kevin ran it up the flagpole and we got on a conference call with Burt and Hill and hammered out all the details and got it done.”
Grobe said Justice’s willingness to bring college golf – with his alma mater’s team – to The Greenbrier was the final piece of the puzzle.
“I think it’s great we have a former Marshall golfer (Justice) in charge at The Greenbrier and he’s going to let us bring this event up there,” Grobe said. “He’s already known for having such a great professional golf event, and it’s really nice to bring a college event to one of the legendary locations of the game.
“Not only is it good for Marshall, I think it’s great for the West Virginia to have a big collegiate event like this in our state, a great place to go. And these college kids are going to play the exact same course they play at the Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, and just when it opens in the spring. We’ll be the first ones out there.
“I think the Greenbrier Classic has meant so much to West Virginia golf, just putting a spotlight on what the PGA Tour pros are saying is one of their favorite events to play, and now what I think we’re going to have is college golfers talking about their favorite event of the year always being the Greenbrier Collegiate.”
The event will begin on Sunday, April 13 – the date of the Masters final round – with a “College-Am.”
The two coaches said a selected number of donors will play in foursomes with college players. All participants will then gather to watch the CBS telecast of the Masters finish in the resort and eat dinner at a banquet presented by Justice.
“One of the things that really excites me about the event is that we are going to be able to pair a few select donors with our players during the practice round in a College-Am,” Grobe said. “It will give our donors an opportunity to play the Old White TPC with our players. That should be a great day.”
The college teams are scheduled for 36 holes the following day and a final 18 holes on Tuesday, April 15.
Grobe said he and Farrell “would ideally like to get to 12 teams,” and have eight committed to date – Marshall, Bowling Green, George Washington, Samford, Old Dominion, William & Mary and St. Bonaventure. Charlotte and Virginia Tech are possibles to date.
Discussions on the event’s trophy are ongoing, but it may be called the Jim Justice Cup.
The Herd team that will make the Greenbrier Collegiate Invitational debut in April won the Bowling Green-hosted John Piper intercollegiate and the Patriot Intercollegiate, hosted by George Mason, this fall. Marshall freshman Clark Robinson (Patriot Intercollegiate) and senior Brian Anania (Bearcat Invitational) have taken individual titles.
“Here at Marshall, we’ll get to start the school year with our own Joe Feaganes Marshall Invitational,” Grobe said. “Our tournament has been played for more than 40 years and we’ve named for our retired coach who is known throughout college golf.
“And starting this spring, we’ll finish our regular season, leading into conference tournament play, with the Greenbrier Collegiate. That really makes for a special season for our program.”
The last evidence of college golf at The Greenbrier is in the archives at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Va. The Generals played Ohio, Harvard, Colgate at the White Sulphur Springs resort in 1951.
Conte has a 1949 photo of the Ohio and W&L golf teams at The Greenbrier. The Bobcats’ team included future PGA Championship winner and Ryder Cup player and captain Dow Finsterwald.
“It’s special that Marshall and Bowling Green are going to do this, bring college golf back to one of our great resorts and a course like the Old White,” Grobe said. “When you really think of the big scheme of things, we need to have a major collegiate golf event in our state.
“It will good for our junior program, good for the state of the game in West Virginia, just like the Greenbrier Classic has made a great impact on golf in the state.”
Marshall completes its fall portion of the 2013-14 schedule Sunday-Tuesday on North Carolina’s Outer Banks in the OBX/ODU Collegiate at Kilmarnic. The Greenbrier Collegiate is the fourth event on the Herd’s spring schedule, two weeks prior to the April 28-30 Conference USA Championships in Texarkana, Ark.