Thursday 2 June 2011

Sawgrass Pro Am and "Players Championship" review

Sawgrass Classic Pro Am 2011

I have just got back from an incredible week in Florida, i travelled to the States to watch the last round of the Players Championships and compete in the Sawgrass Classic Pro Am.

Firstly, A big thank you to Sepehr, Azar and Shahram for an awesome week in Florida, you were immense as a team and great company.

We flew to Orlando on Sat, landing in the middle of a thunderstorm which was awesome, we even managed to get hit by lightning on approach! the front of the cabin lit up like a firework. After arriving safely at the Hyatt on International Drive we spent the evening relaxing in Bahama Breeze and Howl at the Moon.

1.45am my body clock kicked into gear and for he next 5 hours I stayed awake through an amazing thunder/lightning storm until it was time for breakfast and then the 2 hour drive  to Sawgrass.

As you can see from the above pictures we had great views of the last days play at the Players Championships, we arrived at 11am and stayed through to the conclusion of the playoff on the 17th.  KJ Choi was very solid on Sunday and thoroughly deserved his victory.  It was great to see the guys tackle the challenges of the Stadium course, you truly appreciate how much control they have with their golf ball.

Az and I followed the Donald and McDowell groups for the entire last round until the last few holes where we stayed with the leaders.  We had prime position on 17th for the last group and watched Choi birdie to take the lead. A 300 yard dash followed as we took up a spot on the 18th fairway!  We watched Toms make his putt and then ran back to 17 for the playoff.  Below you can see a video of the players as they approached the green and also KJ holing the winning putts, check out the atmosphere!!!


Over the course of the next week we played 6 rounds including 2 rounds of the Staduim course at Sawgrass. 4 of these were part of the Sawgrass Classic Pro Am.  It was a first for Sepehr and Shahram to play in this style of event so we were all very excited to get started and form the team spirit needed to succeed.

The itinerary for the tournament week was as follows:

Monday - St Johns Golf and Country Club - Practice Round
Tues am - Players Breakfast at St Johns GCC
Tuesday - St Johns Golf and Country Club - Round 1
Wednesday - King and Bear Golf Club - Round 2
Wed Night - Players BBQ including floating green challenge.
Thursday - TPC Sawgrass Challenge Day
Friday - Sawgrass Valley Course - Round 3
Saturday - TPC Sawgrass - Final Round

Without going into all the details round by round, my team were exceptional for the first 2 rounds and we posted a total of -20, this placed us in 5th place overall.

Thursday was oour first chance to play the TPC Stadium course and we were all very excited to get out there and have a go, especially the island green at the 17th.  This was a challenge day for Pros and Amateurs.  The pros played from the very back tees and the amateurs played from the Blue tee, my team had an individual stableford competition and we had a challenge of breaking 80 for a $200 bonus.

The stadium course is without a doubt the best golf course I have ever played, it has 18 spectacular holes that challenge all aspects of your game. Words cannot describe just how good it is, plus the fact that it finishes with 3 of the best holes in golf, I'm sure you are familiar with the 17th, the island green!  We played the course    under tournament conditions, the greens were 13.5 on the stimp meter and the rough around the greens was 6 inches deep.

Congratulations here go to Sepehr who played out of his skin and won the 10+ section of the amateur event, you were inspiring on that day.  On a personal note, I had been struggling with my swing a little so didnt have full control of the ball......I hit 3 greens in regulation, 24 putts and managed 75 (+3).  The story of my round was to hit it stone dead on 17! nearly holing it and then Driver 8 iron to 15 feet and sinking the putt for birdie birdie finish :)
My tee shot on 17!

On Friday we were back in Pro Am mode and the team met early for breakfast in anticipation of a good day on the course.  Pete Dye's Valley course was the challenge in front of us and we felt ready for battle!

The Valley course is situated alongside the Stadium course and offers some great holes with no fewer than 15 holes with water a feature.  The course is surrounded by some beautiful waterside houses which provided a great back drop for the course. Bill our forecaddie had told us that a recent Nationwide tour event on this course was won with only 7 under.

It was a tough day on the course for the team as we lacked some of the momentum that we had gained over the first two days, I'm not sure if it was partly to do with the high of playing the Stadium course the day before, or just we didn't score well as a team on the whole.  I managed to put together a solid 69 (3 under par) which I felt was a good but not great score.  To our surprise the team score of 7 under moved us up a place in the overall standings to fourth and my score was the best pro's score on the day!  Our lunch tasted that much better as our days performance had turned out much better than we was now Beer o'clock.

While Sepehr and Shahram hit balls for a couple of hours Az and I spent that time drinking cold Corona's on the putting green.  We were preparing for the challenge of the stadium course once more.

Saturday morning, and there was a buzz in the air, we knew that we needed a good score today to move further up the leaderboard and we felt that is was possible.  We were dressed in team Lacoste shirts and definately looked the part, thanks Sepehr! After a team breakfast we again headed for the practice ground nice and early to prepare and also savour the chance to use the world class facilities that Sawgrass has to offer.

Well I would love to tell you at this point that we ripped it and posted a score to threaten the leaders, but sadly the course won.  It wasn't for the lack of trying, but we couldn't get anything going and sadly moved back into the pack.  We all thoroughly enjoyed playing the magnificent course again and although we didn't achive our aim for the day we all left with some great memories.

Below are some videos of us tackling the 17th plus Sepehr recovery after his reinaction of David Tom's water shot on 16!! plus some other pics from the last day.

Saturday night and the Pro Am was brought to a close with the Gala dinner, John and Alison Hooper put together a special event and on behalf of myself and the team a big thank you must go out to them.  

It was a pleasure to share the week with my team: Sepehr, Shahram and Azar, we evolved into a good team, learned a lot, and as a type this I'm smiling at some of the off course antics......Uzi!, Shopping!, clearing our Edwin Watts, Dinners at various places, the dance off!, rules discussions!, beers/vodka/tequilas!, Onstar :), "why the rush man!" and last but not least your enthusiasm was contagious....I thank my for making my week, you are all legends in your own rights and I look forward to stepping on the tee soon and having another go.

We will be back!

A final thought for the week, Cleveland Golf and Srixon Sports were very kind to provide us with some balls, accessories and caps for the event.

Thank you for your support.

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