By Aaron Nolan
White Sulphur Springs, WV
When you walk around the Old White TPC and see the best players in the world playing on one of the nicest golf courses in America, it’s hard to remember what took place just over a year ago here at the Greenbrier. It’s hard to remember the raging waters tearing through the city of White Sulphur, the twenty-six people who lost their lives, and the sound of people saying the Greenbrier wouldn’t be ready to host the 2017 golf tournament.
At a “Neighbors Loving Neighbors” private luncheon on Tuesday a room full of people gathered to reflect on last years tragedy, but most importantly to celebrate the recovery efforts by those at the Greenbrier. Two time Masters champion and Greenbrier resident Bubba Watson had high praise for all those who helped with the recovery, “I applaud everybody from the great state of West Virginia, White Sulphur Springs, and everyone from each and every county. It’s been an honor to see you all and see you all live through it and get better each day.” Accomponied by his wife Angie, the two discussed how they are West Virginians at heart and as soon as they saw the devastation, they were eager to do what they could to help out with the recovery.
The unexpected part for Angie Watson was that instead of touching others, she was the one who was impacted the most. “I offered my time expecting to help, but what those people that we helped did for me was more astounding than what I could have done for them. I experienced the definition of true Biblical hospitality and love. I believe the definition of that is to show people love in your good times and bad times. I had walked into people’s houses that had lost everything just a couple of days before and they had coffee for me, they had lunch for me, they showed me love, they were so happy to have me and to me it’s the true definition of love and what West Virginia is all about,” said an emotional Watson.
Bubba and Angie Watson are not only learning from the people of White Sulphur Springs, but also trying to teach their son Caleb some important life lessons, “We’re trying to tell him the story that he needs to love everybody. Neighbors loving neighbors, you know. We’re trying to teach him even at four years old how to give back and be a part of a community,” said Bubba.
After the Watson family shared their appreciation and love for the people of West Virginia and checks were presented to Neighbors Loving Neighbors, Jim Nantz of CBS closed the afternoon talking about the story he will be telling from the booth this weekend. “It’s going to be a special event and we’ve got a great story coming together. That story this week, it’s going to be special no matter the winner, it’s going to be a dynamic, great moment, but can you imagine what that moment will be like if that champion is Bubba Watson on Sunday? There wouldn’t be a dry eye on the green, in the booth, or in every living room across America. And there won’t be a dry eye anyway as we tell the story of the resiliency and greatness of the state of West Virginia,” said Nantz.
While Watson holding the Springhouse Trophy on Sunday would be a perfect scenario to cap off this emotional week, this week is going to be special no matter the outcome on Sunday. Nantz stated it so perfectly when he stated, “This week is so much bigger than a sporting event.” What Nantz said in a quiet corner of the Greenbrier really hit home with all those in the room. Often times in sports there is a story that just means more than the event itself, and that is no doubt the case this week at the Greenbrier. The real story this week isn’t about who’s in the field, who’s going to win, or what the course looks like, it’s about the people of White Sulphur and how they have battled back and continue to battle back from one of the biggest challenges they will ever face. This week, unlike most weeks on the PGA, the story and the tournament itself is so much bigger than the game of golf.