With Mr. Anonymous in the rear view mirror, I spent the week in White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, for the Greenbrier Classic. In only its second year, this event is quickly becoming one of the best tournaments on the PGA Tour. I flew Beth along with my former UGA roommate and good friend Davis Thomason and his wife Lynn up for the week. The owner of the Greenbrier Resort, Mr. Jim Justice, leaves no stone unturned and the hospitality is second to none. A brand new casino, great restaurants, spa treatments, fishing, off-road driving, and skeet shooting are just a few of the activities available to the players and their guests. And if that wasn't enough, last year Mr. Justice built a huge concert arena near the Resort to provide music entertainment and hopefully draw bigger crowds to the tournament. Well, it worked. Reba McEntire, Rascal Flatts, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley performed during the week and the players were given VIP access to everything. It was amazing. Obviously this year was no different. On Thursday night, Luke Bryan and Tim McGraw performed followed by The Black Eyed Peas on Friday night. Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban rocked the stage Saturday night in front of a huge crowd. My favorite performance of the week was of course Georgia's own, Luke Bryan. The two of us met while we were in college at Georgia Southern and we spent most afternoons and late evenings together doing things that college kids do…enough said. Immediately following my round on Thursday, Davis and I met Luke outside the Greenbrier Resort. He drove up in his bright yellow Bronco and the three of us spent the rest of the afternoon playing golf on the Private course at the Greenbrier. We had a blast and laughter constantly filled the air. Luke dropped Davis and me off at the hotel and we quickly encouraged our wives to get ready so we wouldn't miss his concert. The four of us climbed on the Greenbrier bus outside the hotel around 6:45pm. With the concert arena less than 10 miles away, we had plenty of time to get there before Luke hit the stage at 8pm….or so we thought. For some reason, the local police closed most of roads leading to the venue and traffic quickly became a nightmare. When we finally arrived, the four of us walked into the VIP area (which was located against the stage) and Luke immediately held up his arms in a "where have you been" motion. We saw him play his last song and that was it!! Obviously this was a huge disappointment. However, moments after Luke walked off the stage, his manager came and invited us back to his bus. We took several other couples to meet Luke and his band and everyone had a great time. As imagined, stories of our college days were the topic of choice…some were good and some were probably better left untold!!
We skipped The Black Eyed Peas on Friday mainly because we didn't want to sit in traffic. Later that evening, a friend of mine told me that the traffic situation was resolved and the bus ride from the Greenbrier only took 15-20 minutes. I sure wish they would had figured that out a day earlier!! So like a bunch of yo-yos, we loaded the bus on Saturday once again…this time Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban took the stage. They both put on a great performance and of course all the ladies were googly eyed over Keith Urban. The highlight of the night was meeting Virginia Tech Football Coach Frank Beamer. He spoke with Davis and me for quite a while and I quickly reminded him about the 2006 bowl game defeat he experienced against my beloved Dawgs.
Lost amongst the entertainment was a golf tournament. After struggling through Friday's round in Canada, I met with my physical therapists and a doctor on Monday morning to access my hip. We all agreed that it was time for another cortisone shot. I drove over an hour and a half (one way) to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, to meet with the Football Team's head Orthopedic surgeon. He injected cortisone and a "greaser" into my hip socket. And in case you were wondering….it didn't tickle! When I woke up Tuesday morning I was shocked to find that I could barely walk. My hip swelled up from the injection and after the therapists examined me, they instructed me to not practice. I spent the next three hours in the rehab trailer with them in an attempt to improve my condition. Wednesday morning unfortunately brought the same swelling and discomfort in my hip. I was forced to withdraw from the Pro-Am and once again, I didn't practice. I spent the day in the trailer again and I entered Thursday's round without hitting a golf shot since my Friday round in Canada….and for a man that plays golf everyday, this was a long layoff. I woke up Thursday morning feeling much better. I scraped it around the course and shot a respectable score of 69. As I mentioned earlier, I played more golf that afternoon with Luke in an attempt to knock the remaining rust off my game. The rest of the week went about as expected for a man that was playing a little timid and scared. I made the cut and eventually finished 32nd. My good friend Scott Stallings however had an incredible week. He birdied the 18th hole to join a playoff with Bob Estes and another friend of mine Bill Haas. Stallings made a 6 footer on the first playoff hole to win the 2011 Greenbrier Classic. I couldn't be more happy for he and his wife Jennifer. They are two of the nicest people on Tour.
If you ever have a chance to visit the Greenbrier, make sure you listen out for the train as it rolls through the hills/ halls of West Virginia late at night (that's for you Davis and Lynn!!)
I left West Virginia and headed to Washington D.C for a Monday morning Pro-Am prior to my next event in Reno, Nevada. Unfortunately, I went against my rule of never flying out of Dulles International. Several years ago, I vowed to never step foot in that airport after a nightmare trip of countless delays and disgruntled workers. Seriously, what is the deal with Dulles? Even Bruce Willis in the movie Die Hard got stranded at Dulles! Well, I rolled the dice again and lost……again! My flight to Reno, along with 15 other PGA Tour players, got delayed, canceled, re-booked, and delayed again. We missed our connecting flight in Denver and had to spend the night there. Thankfully I had some of the funniest guys on Tour alongside of me. We made the best of our situation and I laughed the entire time. I finally got to Reno Tuesday morning just in time to make it to my second of three Pro-Ams for the week. I hurried into the parking lot and changed right beside my car into some extremely….and I mean extremely…. wrinkled golf clothes. As you could see, the week was off to a roaring start. However, things were quickly about to change.
At the Pro-Am, I was paired with three guys from Charleston, South Carolina, and a Casino host from my hotel, the Eldorado. Obviously, all three fellas were big gamblers and after 12 holes, one of the guys suggested that the two of us bet on our final 6 holes. I quickly agreed to his wager and game of closest to the pin for $100 a shot. Well, after four holes…. ol' boy from South Carolina was down $400 to the redneck from Georgia. As expected, he pressed his bet to $200 a shot on our next to last hole. As I stood over my shot, I knew things were about to get out of hand. Already up $400 and with my opponent not very close to the hole, I had a decision to make. Either bury this guy, expect another press on the next hole, and eventually win $1000 or lay down. This was an extremely difficult decision because I NEVER LET anyone off the hook….heck I don't even let my 4 year old boy win at anything. I am the Dad that tackles hard, blocks shots, and whizzes fast balls past him….TIME OUT….before you get bent out of shape, my father and brother did the same to me growing up. It made me a better athlete and it will do the same for Jake. Anyway, after deciding that it probably wasn't a good idea to take a $1000 off a Pro-Am partner, I reluctantly and conveniently left my approach shot just outside of his ball. I entered the final hole up $200. As we walked on the tee box of our final hole, my opponent added a twist to our bet… $200 closest to the pin and $100 for a made putt. I agreed of course but now I was just mad at myself. Here I was, being Mr. Nice guy and instead of being up $600, I was only up $200 and I now had a chance to lose money! To add fuel to my fire, our last hole was a par 3 and his tees were about 25-30 yards closer. As expected, he began yapping and said that he couldn't wait to hit it closer than me, make the putt and then tell everyone at the Pro-Am that he took $100 from a PGA Tour player. He repeated this statement as I stood over my ball. As he talked about making the putt, I began to swing. My ball flew high in the air, landed softly about 6 feet behind the hole, spun back and went in the hole for a ONE!! His buddies and the Casino host went nuts! They were jumping up and down, slapping me high fives, and laughing at their dejected sidekick who in a blink of an eye, lost $400! They couldn't stop laughing. They told me that the best part was how their buddy "REALLY thought he could win." They loved how I "let him hang around and after messing with him, I shooed him away like an annoying fly. You crushed him by making a hole in one and never giving him a chance to win!" It was priceless and something I will never forget.
The events on Tuesday obviously gave me a bust of confidence and I entered Thursday's round with a positive outlook. I played solid the entire week and entered Sunday's round with a chance to win. Sitting three strokes back of the leader Scott Piercy, I knew that in order to win, I would need a flawless round out of myself as well as some help from him. To my credit, Sunday's round was one of the best ball striking rounds of the year. I hit the ball well from tee to green but once again, my putts burned the edges and never seemed to fall. I finished the tournament in a tie for 3rd place and by most calculations, I locked up my card for 2012. I of course, am not content with those figures and I will continue to play.
This week I am in Greensboro, North Carolina, for the Wyndham Championship after spending a week at home. In fact, last week was only my 2nd time at home in the last 18 weeks!! I cannot tell you how nice it was to sleep in my own bed. Beth and the kids made the trip north with me and I played the course on Tuesday with Boo and Jason Bohn. I hit the ball extremely well (17 of 18 greens and 14 of 14 fairways) especially since I didn't practice much last week. Hopefully good ball striking will once again be the norm throughout the week. Our FedEx Cup Playoffs begin next week in New Jersey and my goal is to make it to the Tour Championship in Atlanta. Only the Top 30 players advance to this final tournament and with my current standing at 71, the Tour Championship is certainly not out of reach. Why am I so concerned about the Tour Championship??? Well, by making it to this tournament you earn an invitation to all four Majors in 2012……and yes, that includes that event which takes place in early April about an hour down the road from my house!! The Masters
Thank you all for the emails and messages following my last post "Mr. Anonymous". They truly mean a lot and I appreciate all the kind words.
One last thing.....if you have a second please visit (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/annahayspolk). The parents of this beautiful little girl went to college with Beth and me at Georgia Southern. Their little princess Anna Hays was diagnosed with Leukemia on the day before her 3rd birthday! They could really use some prayers right now!