WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — When Jim Justice reflects upon the 2012 derecho that wrecked parts of West Virginia, he wonders whether last year’s Greenbrier Classic should have proceeded.
The gusty thunderstorm that claimed 22 lives across seven states and knocked out power in parts of West Virginia for two weeks, struck less than 72 hours before PGA Tour players and volunteers arrived for the weeklong Greensbrier event.
Though Justice and his staff kept the tournament on schedule, the resort owner admitted Tuesday he didn’t realize the derecho created “a Mount St. Helens” catastrophe for the mid-Atlantic states.
“To be just as honest as I can be, if I would’ve truly known the magnitude of the catastrophe, we may have thrown up the white flag and said ‘We can’t do it.’ The magnitude of what John Doe the Everyday Guy went through with that (storm) went way beyond what we were faced with,” he said.
As proud a West Virginian as there is, Justice said his focus after last year’s storm was keeping the third annual Greenbrier Classic on pace.
“I wasn’t going to let it beat us,” he said. “I felt like West Virginians were just too tough for this to beat us, and I’m so serious about this being a red badge of courage for our state.”
ACHING FOR LEFTY
As the final round of the U.S. Open unfolded and Phil Mickelson unraveled, Justice said he felt like crying over what became another agonizing second-place finish.
“Maybe a lot of tears to tell you the truth, because Phil wanted that really bad,” he said. “You talk about an ambassador for the game—this is an ambassador for all of us in life. He’s such a class person … who just touches all the right places to me. Gracious and friendly and appreciative—he’s a really, really special man.”
Justice lauded the PGA’s decision—made Monday at the Greenbrier—to ban anchored putters beginning in 2016.
“We don’t need any gimmicks,” he said. “We just need the game, the time-honored game that brought us to where we are today.”
Though the debate continues as to the long putter fits within the confines of the game, Justice said major champions such as Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson clearly benefited from using theirs.
“Sure it’s an edge. It just stabilizes part of the swing,” Justice said. “For crying out loud, if we could get mechanical arms, we could stick a putter in the middle of our belly and just click our arms. What’s going to be next?”
Justice said he was unaware of the countless fights, 73 arrests and 60,000 pounds of leftover trash resulting from Kenny Chesney’s concert at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on June 22. Chesney is slated to perform Thursday night at the nearby fairgrounds.
“I’m carrying a Taser with me at all times,” Justice joked. “No, I surely think we’ve got security out the ying-yang and we’re not going to tolerate anything like that. We’re just not going to tolerate that.”