Davey Jude receives exemption to Greenbrier Classic
HUNTINGTON — Growing up in Kermit, W.Va., there were two constants in Davey Jude’s life: sports and the coal business.
On both his mom and dad’s sides of the family, coal was the center of their lives while Jude’s interest in sports was as wide-ranged as the hills of West Virginia and beyond.
It is a similar background to Gov. Jim Justice, who also has had sports and the coal industry as two central factors in his life.
On Thursday, those two paths crossed as Justice called Jude at 3 p.m. and extended a sponsor’s exemption to the former Marshall University golfer to be part of the 2018 player field in The Greenbrier Classic.
“That tournament is the biggest thing in my life,” Jude said. “You always think about playing on the PGA Tour, but to be honest, it was always this one that I wanted to play in before any of the other ones. It’s always been the goal to get to The Greenbrier Classic.”
The Greenbrier Classic from July 5-8 on Old White TPC at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is the state’s only major professional event.
Jude’s inclusion is the culmination of
hard work, preparation and perseverance in a sport that is an after-thought in Mingo County.
“Being a golfer from West Virginia, it’s obviously pretty hard,” Jude said. “There’s not even many of us that try. Where I grew up, the closest golf course to my house was 45 minutes away.”
That course wasn’t even in West Virginia. It was StoneCrest Golf Course in Prestonsburg, Kentucky. Prior to Jude turning 16, his mom would drive him there and drop him off so he could learn the game. Once he turned 16, he drove there every day, treating it as though it was a full-time job.
“It was a long drive and a lot of miles, but it was all worth it,” Jude said.
The Greenbrier Classic has been entrenched in Jude’s golf blood since its inception. After doing volunteer work and caddying in the Pro-Am tournament in 2010, he had the honor of going through a practice round with two PGA Tour players after receiving State Player of the Year honors as a senior at Tug Valley High School in 2011.
“I don’t think I’ve missed a year,” Jude said. IVe been up there for at least a little bit of it.”
Following high school, Jude went to Marshall University, where he redshirted in 2012-13 before playing three years as a consistent force for the Thundering Herd.
After winning the Dixie Amateur on Dec. 22, 2016, Jude decided to turn pro and relocated to Jupiter, Florida, to work on his game while living close to some of the game’s top names.
“It’s everything,” Jude said. “I’m down here, and I live here literally within three miles of Tiger (Woods), Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas — all the big names in golf. It’s the only place to be to improve in the wintertime. There are some mini-tour events down here that, a lot of golfers who have been on the PGA Tour, they’ve played on it and worked their way up.”
That work has been paying dividends for Jude, who said his game has improved from both a physical and mental aspect since his decision to turn professional on Jan. 1, 2017.
Jude’s first year as a pro nearly saw his dream of competing in The Greenbrier Classic come true during the pre-qualifier event on the Cobb Course at The Resort at Glade Springs. As Jude made the turn for his final nine, he was in one of the four qualifier spots, but a double-bogey on the third left him on the brink. Still, with two holes to go, he had a chance to make it, but a pair of bogeys to end the round left him three shots out of the playoff for the qualifier spot.
“Last year, I should have had it” Jude said of the qualifier disappointment. “I made two bad decisions coming down with two holes to go and I ended up missing it.”
With the sponsor’s exemption, there will be no near miss of reaching his dream this year.
For Jude, the Old White TPC is a far cry from the Tug Valley Country Club, a 9-hole course in Mingo County with some of its holes in West Virginia and some in Kentucky, or StoneCrest where his love for the game blossomed. The 24-year-old will make his PGA Tour debut in West Virginia in front of family and friends during the Fourth of July holiday week.
In that aspect, it will never feel any more like home.