Retired in Florida means seldom being able to spend Mother’s Day with my sons and their families in Pennsylvania and California. Retired in Northeast Florida means often being able to spend Mother’s Day at The Players Championship golf tournament at Sawgrass, a 15-minute drive from my home. While the former is far more desirable, the latter is a fun alternative.
“Who are you following?” my son in PA asked during our phone conversation before I left for the course.
“What do you mean?” I teased.
I detected a subtle groan before he explained the Tiger Woods/Sergio Garcia rivalry, suggesting that I be on the lookout for some interesting interaction.
“Oh yeah, they play golf there, too,” I said.
So it began … a day of fun (for me) and frustration (for my sons) as we playfully bridged the miles via text messages throughout the tournament.
For me, the TPC is the ultimate social event, a sport of people watching and Bloody Mary sipping in a glorious setting. For them, and almost everybody else, it’s about seeing the best golfers in the world compete for the winner’s trophy—and lots of money.
As a Mother’s Day surprise, a friend who shares my idea of TPC fun ended up with Benefactor tickets—which gave us nearly unlimited social access. First stop: The Benefactor, a building directly behind the 17th tee. It has bars, food and rows of seats overlooking what’s commonly called the “most famous hole in golf” for its island green.
Our seats overlooked the most famous hole in golf.
We had arrived mid-morning, before any golfers made it to the final holes, and spent nearly an hour on The Benefactor’s deck texting the above photo to family and friends and savoring our first Bloody Marys before my subconscious admonished me to “get off that device and get out there!” Moseying along the walkway by the 18th hole to the TPC Clubhouse, we marveled at the beauty of the water and grass, exceptionally green and lush thanks to the previous week’s heavy rains—all the while gawking around for people we knew.
(Flashback: … to my first professional tournament at the Colonial in Fort Worth in 1978. I recalled the breathtaking waterways, fairways and fashions. I suppose they played golf there, too.)
“Do you realize we’ve been here nearly three hours and haven’t seen one golfer?” I asked my friend, as we lounged at a table on the clubhouse lawn. So we made an effort to decipher our map and make our way to the low-numbered holes to actually watch some golf. “Where’s Par 1 … I mean, Hole 1?” she asked a volunteer, revealing our golf savvy.
No! You didn’t really leave!
Eventually we meandered back to The Benefactor, where amazingly we secured second-row seats directly behind the 17th tee—before the top four ranked golfers even teed off No. 1. That was sweet, and we knew it. We decided to stay in those seats until the end, even though it would be a long wait in the hot sun and we didn’t really understand the leaderboard. The ambiance was heavenly.
(Another flashback: … to my first Jaguars game in 1996, totally captivated by the crowd, the cheerleaders, the view of the river and bridges. “They’re right in front of us now,” my friend said. “Who?” I asked. “The players,” he answered. “Oh, I had forgotten about them.”)
“Would you like to leave now to beat the traffic? It takes forever to get out of the parking lot,” my friend said shortly before the last four twosomes played through No. 17. “OK, I’m hungry, anyway,” I agreed. “Are you leaving?” another spectator asked incredulously as we rose. He and his friend pounced in our seats as we were barely out of them.
It wasn’t until we saw the huge TV screen at the nearby Food Court that we realized what we had done. Tiger missed a shot and there was a four-way tie. My phone vibrated. “This is exciting. So where r u exactly,” my PA son texted. “We just left to beat the crowd. What’s exciting?” I replied, aware of what I was doing.
“Geeeez! It’s gonna be the most exciting finish there in years and you LEFT???”
“ … We had Benefactor seats outside right behind the 17th tee. We gave them up to get a Firehouse sub …”
“OMG! I can’t imagine what the people that got your seats are saying about those dumb— ladies right now …”
Then this text from my CA son, who had just talked to his brother: “ … One of the all-time classic finishes in golf was about to happen right in front of your eyes and you just decided to leave?!”
As it turned out, we made it to a friend’s home in time to watch the final four golfers play the last two holes on TV, with a much closer view than from our perch at The Players. But by then, I was far more entertained by sons’ hilarious texts.
About my game …
Actually, my golf knowledge is superior to my ability. It’s that bad. My barely used graphite clubs have been in a closet for 16 years, since I accidentally nearly slammed into my then-boyfriend with a cart. Memories include my youngest brother repeatedly snapping at me to stop talking to him while he was putting … and to move my shadow. When I played with my sister-in-law our scores were astronomical, until her father clued us in about picking up after 10 strokes, muttering about how golfers behind us must hate us. Even then, for me 80 was excellent for nine holes.
Seeing my potential, my oldest brother gave me solid advice: “Look. For two weeks, put your clubs away. Don’t play. Don’t think about golf. After two weeks, quit.”