Thornblade Club has one of the most interesting finishing holes on the Web.com Tour. Surrounding the 18th green are a host of sponsors entertaining their guests.
Thornblade Club Head Golf Professional Kevin Schreel and General Manager Hector Batista.
The front of Thornblade Club has a BMW on its front lawn to signal the partnership that has reached 10 years.
For the past quarter century, Thornblade Club has been anything but a secret, but as the centerpiece host of the Web.com Tour BMW Charity Pro-Am the club’s stature has grown exponentially.
“Besides the economic impact that the tournament has in the city of Greenville, it’s a great time for us to showcase our hospitality,” Thornblade Club General Manager Hector Batista said. “We have players coming in from all over the world – from Australia, South America. This tournament got voted the best tournament on the Web.com Tour for a reason – it’s the hospitality that we offer here and the experience this creates.”
Television coverage on The Golf Channel and a strong Internet presence through the Web.com Tour has given the Thornblade brand a significant boost. The Web.com Tour is a step below the PGA Tour. The professional purse for the BMW Charity Pro-Am amounts to $675,000 with $121,500 going to this year’s winner, Richy Werenski.
Thornblade’s Tom Fazio-designed course is one of three courses – along with The Reserve at Lake Keowee and The Preserve at Verdae – to annually host the tournament with the final round played at Thornblade.
“Since we have started hosting this event, I’ve gotten phone calls – one from a pro in Oregon, saying a member there had seen the event on TV and was going to be in the area and wondered if there’d be any chance of possibly of playing,” said Thornblade Head Golf Professional Kevin Schreel. “So, it shows that there’s a width to the exposure as well. It’s been good.”
Schreel said he is pleased with the way the course has acquitted itself with the professionals from the Web.com Tour.
“When you look at the scoring averages on Sundays when they set the course up to a Tour standard, the average score has been between 70 and 71, so barely under par. It shows the toughness of the golf course,” Schreel said. “From a membership perspective, it’s accessible. It can be played. Fazio did a phenomenal job in designing the course.”
Some 30 Thornblade members teed up for the amateur portion of the BMW Charity Pro-Am last week.
“Our members definitely support the event,” said Schreel, noting that the course is closed to membership play for nine days leading up to and during the Pro-Am.
Thornblade Club President Rusty Cagle was among the members competing in the Pro-Am, making it to Sunday’s final round.
“I really enjoy the camaraderie here,” Cagle said. “Everybody is so welcoming. I didn’t grow up in a country-club setting, but this was exactly what I wanted. It’s been perfect for me and my family.”
In addition to the BMW Charity Pro-Am, Thornblade also annually hosts the South Carolina Junior Golf Association Blade Junior Golf Classic, which is considered one of the state’s junior major championships.
“You have two different pieces,” Schreel said. “The golf community as a whole has embraced this event. The junior golf community gets fully embraced by The Blade Junior Golf Classic. The tournaments hit two different segments of the golf population, but they both do a great job of exposing golf to the masses around the area.”
Thornblade’s origins began with PGA Tour professional and Thornblade founding member Jay Haas, a Greenville native who is the club’s director of golf. Haas is one of 16 professional golfers to call Thornblade home, a list that also includes former U.S. Open Champion Lucas Glover, PGA Tour winners Ben Martin and Kyle Thompson as well as Bill Haas, a multi-time PGA Tour victor and Jay Haas’ son.
“As one of the premier clubs in this area, I think it’s important for us to align ourselves with professionals from the golf industry,” said Batista, who took over as Thornblade’s GM eight months ago. “We have a number of players who are trying to get into the PGA Tour or are on the PGA Tour, which the club helps facilitate by allowing them to use the facility to practice here and integrating them into the community.”
Despite being on the job a relatively short time, Batista has already overseen a $500,000 renovation to the golf clubhouse, which is part of several capital projects set for 2016 and 2017.
“Part of what we have going forward is a sustainability plan,” Cagle said. “The Haas Grill has been redone; we have a lot of golf memorabilia because we have such a rich tradition with Jay and with Bill and Lucas having grown up playing golf here, and we want to keep that tradition upstairs (in the clubhouse). After we do that, we’re going to expand our wellness facility to appeal to families moving forward.
“With Hector’s leadership and his vision, I feel very comfortable with where we’re going over the next 25 years.”
In addition to the golf course, Thornblade features a Tennis Center with 11-lighted courts with more than 150 tennis players on more than 16 UPTA league teams. It also hosts the Thornblade Outlaw Charity Tennis Classic and Aquafina Tennis Classic. The club also has a competition-sized saltwater pool, which is home to the Blades junior swim team, which is some 150 swimmers strong.
“The leadership of the club has a vision and a plan in place to make this club one of the premier clubs in this area,” Batista said. “But ‘premier’ can be described in the eye of the beholder. For us, a premier club is going to be about the service and the experience we create for our members and our guests. How our members and guests feel when they walk out of here will determine whether we’re premier or not, not so much the infrastructure but the experience that they receive.”