|By Jack Bogaczyk, Charleston Daily Mail,
W.Va.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 30, 2010 --WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -- A couple of years ago, Gov. Joe Manchin said, he was looking as far as the top of Trump Tower to find someone to save West Virginia's beloved Greenbrier.
The solution, coal baron Jim Justice, was much closer to home.
"It's hard to imagine you'd think you would see this two years ago," Manchin reflected Thursday during an appearance at The Greenbrier Classic golf tournament. "My concern then was how could we keep the doors open? I called everybody I knew who I thought might have the ability and interest to do it, to make something happen, from Donald Trump to J.W. Marriott.
"Then, along comes Jim, a hometown boy. God bless him.
He's done well, and he's put it all back in here."
Manchin honored Justice on Thursday with a Distinguished West Virginian award, which was described as the highest the governor can bestow.
"Other people might go somewhere else -- you know how they say the grass is greener on the other side -- but Jim Justice knew that the most lush pasture has always been in West Virginia, and he stayed right with it . . . and the advertising and promotion we're getting here, there's no way the state of West Virginia could buy the kind of exposure we're receiving in this," Manchin said.
Then the governor, who has filed to run for U.S. Senate to replace the late Robert Byrd, gave Justice another compliment. Manchin was asked at a press conference if Justice has a future as a governor.
"He would be an excellent governor," Manchin replied, according to a transcript of the conference by ASAP Sports. "It would be a fun place with Jim. I've always said that. I don't know what Jim's ambitions are."
Manchin said Justice is prouder of the jobs he is providing for people than the title of owner of The Greenbrier.
"Yeah, glad I'm not running against him. Or he's running against me, one of the two," Manchin said. "We're on the same side."
A spokeswoman for Manchin's U.S. Senate campaign said the governor was just replying to a question.
"No, this was not an endorsement," said spokeswoman Sara Payne Scarbro.
Manchin recognized Justice for saving one of his native state's icons, a rekindled place of splendor that bills itself as "America's Resort."
Asked where Manchin would rank the renaissance of The Greenbrier among the in-state developments during the years he's been in the Governor's Mansion, Manchin didn't hesitate.
"In those almost six years, we've had so many great opportunities and things happening," he said. "Changing workers comp was a tremendous event, really. Our economic climate changing was a tremendous event.
"Reducing the food tax was a tremendous event, and being able to keep it off during a recession was tremendous. The Boy Scouts of America (moving a high-adventure base and Summer Jamboree headquarters to Fayette County) and their venue will have great long-lasting effect.
"This event ranks right up there with all of those, and to know we have this for six years (the Classic's contract with the PGA Tour through 2015) is tremendous. The way this event has been accepted and promoted, it's going to become a premier venue, so that every golfer and his family will want to be here."
Manchin pointed out the many activities for golfers' families at The Greenbrier, "things only The Greenbrier can do, whether it's going to Jim's farm to pick vegetables, seeing the falconry, to the archery, to the shooting gallery, all those things kids might never see and learn.
"Other places have a nice pool. You can find a nice pool a lot of places, but the educational things here, the culinary side, those aspects truly make this America's Resort with so many things America is known for."
Manchin also was appreciative of what he saw while sitting briefly in one of the spectator boxes above the Old White's humpback 18th green . . . not that he wanted to tee it up himself.
Asked what he would shoot on Old White, Manchin replied, "They won't let me on Old White."
He took a bit of time to explain his experiences with the dimpled white ball.
"I'm a little bit of a golfer," the governor admitted, "and I do mean 'a little bit.' I don't get to play much and when I do play, it always seems like I'm thinking about something else, so rather than go through the misery, I don't play much.
"In college (at WVU), I learned the game as a freshman, playing golf a lot with my roommates and friends. Others taught me the game because I never played growing up. Then I grew up and got married and had a family, and only had weekends to play because of our retail business, working all the time.
"So I felt like I was cheating my wife and family taking four hours or more out of a weekend day to play golf, so I didn't stay with it. I play a fundraiser about two-three times a year. That's it."
Asked what kind of a player he is, Manchin laughed.
"I hit enough good shots that it makes me think I can't wait until next year . . . but not enough to make me think I can't wait until next week . . . if that makes sense."
ON ANOTHER sports subject, the governor said he doesn't expect to be involved in negotiations to renew the football contract between West Virginia and Marshall -- although his input was needed to forge the seven-year contract that ends with the 2012 game.
"Hopefully, they're talking right now about it, or they should be," Manchin said of the in-state Coal Bowl series that plays Sept. 10 of this season in Huntington.
"Mike Hamrick (Marshall) and Oliver Luck (WVU) are top-notch athletic directors and wonderful people. They can get it done. The presidents, Jim Clements (WVU) and Steve Kopp (Marshall) understand what it means and the financial impact.
"I'm sure they'll work something out on their own."
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at email@example.com or 304-348-7949.
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