Covering The Players for me is a labor of love because of my history with the event. You see, I used to go to the Greater Jacksonville open as a kid and even got in trouble for skipping school to get Arnold palmer’s autograph.
When the tournament became the TPC and moved to Sawgrass, I was working in Jacksonville covering the event. I was there when Lee Trevino hit an amazing wedge shot on 18 to win. I was there when Raymond Floyd took advantage of damp ground to get relief from behind a tree on 16. I was there when Andy Bean hit a three-wood from 150 yards into the wind.
But my best story is an embarrassing one. I was working at the Jacksonville Journal and we had six writers blanketing the tournament on a Wednesday. Back then, the TPC was the place to be, more social event than golf tournament. Well, five of us ended up meeting girls (I was only 23) and going to parties and never filed stories. Since we weren’t at the same parties, we all figured the other five guys would have it covered.
So the next day, the first day of the tournament, we had one story in the paper. And my boss couldn’t jump my case because he was one of the five.
While the tournament was across the street at Sawgrass, work began to build the Stadium Course and my two brothers, Tim and Jamie, were part of the construction team.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Tim was telling me Wednesday night. “Our job was to walk through the palmettos and brush and mark where the fairways were supposed to be. Every five steps or so we’d see a giant snake.”
For Tim, it’s a pretty good feeling to see what this has become. And for me, this is a special place. Part of the reason is I’ve played here 15 times or so. One more story before I head back out onto the course.
I was playing with my Dad and former Gator and NFL coach Lindy Infante one day. I got to 18 and needed just a bogey to break 80 for the first time. From the middle of the fairway, I had a 3-iron in my hand when my Dad said, “Just don’t pull it left.” Thanks, dad. Duck hook into the water, double bogey, 80.
Still my best round.