It’s that time of year again when the world’s best golfers descend upon the First Coast to vie for the chance to be crowned THE PLAYERS Champion. The competition never disappoints, there is always plenty of drama as these professionals take on Pete Dye’s famed Stadium Course, especially coming down the stretch on Sunday. As evidenced by Rickie Fowler’s historic come from behind win last year (one I was completely unaware of, even though I was about 50 yards from the 18th green, but more on that later); finishing birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie forcing a three-man playoff! An incredible feat any time, but unheard of on the final round of THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP!
But this tournament is not just a world-class sporting event, it is a tradition. Growing up here, and never really watching or following golf, this tournament was still a big part of my life. It is a community event. My friends and I would go just to meet up, run around and try to get autographs (of course I had no idea what anyone’s name or rankings were). Today, the tradition lives on, and we are passing it down to the next generation. My friends and I still meet up, but now we are chasing kids instead of golfers and we find ourselves a little farther away from the action; mostly because I’m terrified of the possibility of them yelling, crying or sneezing in someone’s backswing. Plus mine are still a little young to really care what’s going on. But they all LOVE going to THE PLAYERS.
It’s almost like going to the zoo, but instead of animals there are professional golfers roaming about, and we are in their natural habitat! Every once in a while we will venture close to one to see if he will catch that little birdie but more often than not we find ourselves rolling down hills, eating tasty treats and enjoying the beautiful natural setting picking up sticks and pine cones, but hopefully leaving the flowers. If we are lucky, sometimes the golfers come to us! When my oldest was two we were clomping through the pine straw between 15 and 16; she was clanking two sticks together singing (yelling) “IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL!” David Toms walked by, at first, startled out of his concentration, he gave us a confused look but then smiled and waved. These guys are here to play, but most of them having kids of their own realize that so are we!
The kid zone is the perfect place to park for a while. There is no pressure to keep quiet, and there is plenty to do! Putt Putt golf, arts and crafts, and the Imagination Playground can provide hours of entertainment. This year I think there might be a rock climbing wall!
Last year’s final round we watched maybe ten shots the entire day. We were hanging in one of the tents letting the kids color on the walls (it was encouraged) when Rickie Fowler was making his final charge. I called my husband to let him know we were on our way out (he works at the TOUR and was in the media center), and he said, “What!? You’re leaving now!?” I’m like, what’s the big deal, kids are hungry, and we are going to grab some dinner. He says “Fowler just forced a playoff!” “Ohhh, is that what those loud roars were?” In a past life, I would have been front and center, but kids change things, and I’m okay with that. It’s still just as fun and one day, they will be interested, and we can see a little more action inside the ropes. Until then, we will settle for the action outside the ropes.
Things to know:
- Kids 18 and under are FREE
- Parking “Four for Free” If you have four or more people in your car, you park for FREE! *parking passes are available, but must be purchased in advance.
- Bag Policy:
- Opaque bags 6x6x6 and smaller are allowed
- Clear Bags 12x6x12 and smaller are allowed
- Food: you may bring food in one-gallon clear plastic bags. Food items must also be in clear bags/wrap.
- Stroller or carrier (although it can get really HOT when you are snuggled next to each other).
- Water Bottle – Filtered drinking water is available in the permanent restrooms near The Patio, Taste of JAX and Wine & Dine on the ninth hole, behind the 16th green.
- Comfortable Shoes (come on ladies, give up those heels will you? You don’t need to aerate the grass, the grounds crew does an excellent job of that already).
To plan your visit to THE PLAYERS Championship this year (purchase tickets, and parking passes, etc.) click here.