WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V. – A canceled event unfortunately isn’t surprising amid the coronavirus outbreak. However, a PGA tournament that takes place close to home is now canceled for good - and not just because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Greenbrier announced Thursday that the resort and the PGA Tour agreed on canceling A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, not just in 2020 but for the remainder of the contract, which was planned to run through 2026.
This year’s event was originally scheduled for September 7-13.
In the small community of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, which relies heavily on the tourism dollars the event brings, some hope this is a blow they can recover from.
19-year-old Jessica Flack is a waitress at Bella Italy in White Sulphur Springs.
“Our summers are usually packed here because of all the visitors at the PGA tour and stuff,” Flack said.
News that the tournament will no longer happen in her hometown came as a shock.
“It’s going to affect the town. There’s not going to be a lot of visitors here,” Flack said.
Emerald Campbell lives in White Sulphur Springs and says restaurants, shops and hotels will all suffer.
“Thousands and thousands of people that come to White Sulphur just to see the golfers,” Campbell said.
The resort’s PR director, Cam Huffman, says the resort and the PGA tour made the mutual decision to cancel the tournament for the rest of their contract.
“It was an extremely difficult decision because all of us were invested in it,” Huffman said.
The tournament used to take place in July, but since it moved to the fall, it just hasn’t attracted crowds, volunteers or sponsors like it used to.
Plus, in the tournament’s 10 year history, it’s suffered a violent wind storm in 2012, a devastating flood in 2016 and now a pandemic.
“A good thing has to end sometime and it kind of just seemed like now was the right time to do it,” Huffman said.
Patricia Pagan with the Greenbrier Valley Economic Development Corporation says at its peak, the tournament and its concerts brought in about $110 million, so this is a huge hit to the region.
“We’re going to be missing out on many millions for absolute sure,” Pagan said.
She says it’s a disappointing loss of the tournament, its economic value and a military tribute the community was proud to share with the world.
“It’s definitely a punch in the stomach,” Pagan said.
The Greenbrier says it knows canceling this tournament is going to impact local businesses and restaurants, but they still plan to hold different events throughout the year.
As for tourism in the county, locals and officials say White Sulphur Springs will recover, and if anything, the tournament has helped put them on the map for future tourism success.