Woodbrier Halloween Tourney

Woodbrier Halloween Golf Tournament.

“It’s All Family Here” – Pumpkins and Pool Cues at Woodbrier’s Halloween Tourney

My first time visiting the Woodbrier Golf Course, I found a muscular man dressed in a gray t-shirt, shorts, and blue latex gloves in a heated conversation on the phone—evidently, someone had sent him some wrong parts. As he hung up and turned to me, I braced myself…only to discover that beneath William “Bubby” Whittington’s gruff exterior was a kind and accommodating host.

Woodbrier golf course host.

As a national wrestling coach hall of famer and legendary nice guy, Bubby’s got big arms and a big personality. He held up his hands and explained his colorful getup; the man’s no fan of toxic chemicals, so the gloves protect him as he sprays vinegar and dish soap on all the greens’ weeds. Tedious and tiring work, for sure, but a shining example of Bubby and his wife Sharon Lynne’s care for their course.

After a glass of their famous sweet tea and a brief tour, Bubby invited me to come back up and play soon. A few months later, I arrived with my clubs for the Woodbrier’s Halloween tournament. This time, Bubby’s blue gloves were nowhere to be seen, and he was dressed in bright orange attire, as were most of the players for this seasonal holiday event.  Little did I know what other wacky surprises he had in store.

Woodbrier golf tourney.

Right before tee time, Bubby welcomed everyone and introduced a childhood friend, Larry, a skilled mason who’d renovated the course’s stone buildings. As Bubby put it, “After high school, I went to Penn State and Larry went to the state pen!” We all shared a laugh and then a moment of silence as we remembered another of their friends’ recent deaths. 

“I’ve always said that we’re not rich, but we’re real,” Bubby told me. “And we’re not fancy, but we’re fun. It’s all family here. It’s all family.”

The tournament was full of characters: from Bub and Sharon Lynne to course champ Ricky and his wife Tori, plus four-time retiree Dennis, ex-military Dwayne…and then of course myself, your favorite 6’5” leftie. Every hole held a special surprise at the beginning and end: pumpkins, toilets, ramps, tires, you name it. And many times, no one was allowed to use a regular golf club. Instead, we took shots with pool cues, tennis racquets, and even a baseball bat. As the tourney moved along, I got to know Bubby and the course a little better.

The Woodbrier Golf Course was built in ‘64 by a real estate investor who loved it so much he lived on it (and eventually had his ashes buried by a lovely tree on the course). Also in the ‘60s, the interstate got put in, and piles of dirt from the construction left two holes noticeably higher than the rest. In 1989, the Whittingtons bought the course, signing the papers in the middle of a massive snowstorm. The rest is history.

Woodbrier Halloween Golf Tournament.

Bubby’s well-known around Martinsburg; besides overseeing Woodbrier and being the High School wrestling coach, he’s been a substitute teacher for 50 years, and in the summers, he paints schools and houses, making him a regular community fixture. Amongst his students and others, he’s got his fair share of admirers—as does his wife, who’s been the women’s course champ for years. A power couple, to be sure! Bubby drinks “aiming fluid” and smokes cigars, fostering a familial atmosphere unlike any amongst the 50+ courses I’ve recently visited. During the tournament, players prodded and joked; at one point, Ricky hit a near 300-yard blindfolded drive to win a bet against his son. All the while, deer flitted about the course as we drank sweet tea and enjoyed the late-October sunshine.

In the end, Bubby nabbed an eagle on the last hole, hitting onto the green with a putter and sinking the shot. I knew he and his wife—who was quick to point out that she’d scored an eagle of her own—would spend the night talking and laughing over a wonderful day with friends, rightfully proud of this course they’ve poured their hearts into. But beyond that, I knew all of us players would leave that day not just with memories of golfing with baseball bats and tennis racquets, but of hand-weeded greens, friends laid to rest beneath beautiful course trees, and golf as it should be: “all family.”

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