Justice reiterates interest in LIV golf in West Virginia, but doesn’t specify yet

Gov. Jim Justice is excited about the possibility of LIV golf, the new professional golf tour with heavy financial backing from Saudi Arabia, but the governor isn’t ready to say it’s coming to his family’s Greenbrier Resort.

Jim Justice

Justice is the governor, a tourism promoter, owner of The Greenbrier and a golf enthusiast.

“One thing that I’ve done, I’ve stayed under the radar. I’d love to see it happen from the standpoint of bringing another big event to West Virginia. It would be great,” Justice said after being asked about the possibility during a briefing today. “They’ve surely had ongoing conversations and everything.”

Earlier this month, The Charleston Gazette-Mail confirmed discussions between representatives of LIV golf and The Greenbrier.

That included a visit to the resort by Greg Norman, the chief executive of the LIV Golf International series. Justice alluded to Norman’s visit when asked for an update today, sharing a story about how Norman proposed moving a tee box and cutting down a couple of trees. “My answer would have been, get a power saw,” Justice said today.

The historic West Virginia resort was the site of a PGA Tour event from 2010 from 2019, called The Greenbrier Classic for most of that time.

Eight LIV events this year are in England, Oregion, New Jersey at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster, Boston, Chicago, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and in Miami at the Trump National Golf Club Doral. So two of the events are at properties affiliated with Donald Trump, the former president, real estate investor and friend of Jim Justice.

Late last month, LIV announced plans to expand to 14 events in 2023, without announcing the specific sites.

“They are genuinely interested. But they’re genuinely interested in a lot of places across this country, if not all across the globe,” Justice said.

LIV golf, which stands for the Roman numeral 54, the number of holes to be played at its events, started competition earlier this year. The organization is funded through the Public Investment Fund, the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the state’s authoritarian ruler.

The connection with Saudi Arabia has been controversial because of that country’s connection with many of the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks on America. More controversy has focused on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, including the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

LIV golf competes with participants and interest with the PGA. Its payouts are quite lucrative: The $25 million purse for a London event this year is the largest in golf history.

“I don’t like the food fights that are going on between the PGA Tour and them,” Justice said. “I think there’s plenty of room for great competition. So I think we would embrace and welcome them to come to West Virginia, but that’s probably still a ways away.”

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