Last week, The Players' Championship, a PGA Tour event, was held in Jacksonville. A bunch of professional golfers who can probably tell I'm terrible at golf just by looking at me came to town to vie for the highest purse on the tour. The squadron where I work at volunteers at the driving range for the tournament, and so in spite of all my golf related disabilities, I volunteered. My charitable side was highly influenced by the two days off work I got for volunteering, and pushed over the edge by the great benefits of being a volunteer. Besides behind the ropes access at a PGA event, I got a free polo shirt and hat, free tickets to attend a day of the tournament as a spectator, a voucher to play the same course the pros were playing, and as many free golf balls as I could carry.
My duties involved washing, drying and sorting golf balls for the driving range. Manufacturers like Nike, Calloway and Titleist sponsor pro golfers, and so the golfers only hit their sponsor's brand of ball. In addition to the tedious but apparently vital responsibility of making sure the Nike balls didn't get into a Titleist bag, I got to clean the practice putting greens, drive the golfers and their caddies around the course, and drive "The Picker," a gigantic combine type tractor that plucked the golf balls off the driving range while the pros were hitting the balls directly at me. There is a windshield on The Picker, but it still rattles the cage a little bit to get nailed by a drive from a pro golfer.
The highlight of my week was driving Tiger Woods to the private practice area. I drove a golf cart with him, his caddy, and three other people I can only guess were cronies, lackeys or hangers-on. OK, they were probably his sports psychologist, swing coach and security guard, but I will hereto refer to them as Tiger's posse. I was privy to their personal conversation about Tiger's practice round he had just shot, and even got a thank you from Tiger when we arrived at our destination. Tiger is just as foul mouthed as people say he is, and he is even bigger in person than he looks on TV. I'm pretty sure he could have folded me up and stuffed me into the glove compartment of the golf cart if he wanted to. He does have a pretty good sense of humor about his recent travails, though, and I guess that is good for someone under as much scrutiny as he is. This picture was taken before I drove him and his posse around. That is Tiger standing just over my right should, warming up on the driving range. Rachel also got a pretty nice highlight of the week. As part of my volunteer duty, I was given tickets to an opening ceremony concert with country music star Tim McGraw. I'm not a huge fan of Tim, but Rach is, so she and her friend Sheryl were the beneficiaries of those tickets and saw Tim's concert from about the tenth row.
On the third day of the Tournament we took the kids to watch some hard core golf action. We saw some of the biggest names in golf: Phil, Tiger, Sergio and many others. Eventually, we were forced to break from the hoity-toity crowd for our parental duties when the kids got hungry and needed to eat. Rachel and I had to find a spot on the floor of the military hospitality tent to feed them. It was crazy, messy, and probably in poor taste at a place as nice as Sawgrass Country Club, but we did it nonetheless. No one kicked us out, and after we were finished we went back out to watch more golf. The week's golf activities served to motivate me to get out on the course more often, but to the best of my knowledge, watching golf does not make one better at golf. Therefore, despite the great week at TPC, I'm 100% certain that I still stink at golf.