By Communications Interns Sofia Pettersson & Paula Toth
A real PGA TOUR experience
It is not a coincidence that The Junior PLAYERS Championship is many juniors’ favorite tournament on the AJGA schedule. The event is in many ways unique and provides the players a true PGA TOUR experience. The set-up of TPC Sawgrass – THE PLAYERS Stadium Course is as identical as can be to the PGA TOUR’s THE PLAYERS Championship. The juniors will play the course at 7,215 yards and with the same hole locations as the professionals, giving them a true TOUR test.
From the moment you turn onto the PGA TOUR Boulevard, taking you up to the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse, you drive past banners alongside the road featuring faces of past champions of THE PLAYERS Championship. You then approach the clubhouse, which is full of traditions and historical moments, from Tiger Woods’ iconic putt on No. 17, to the Champion’s Room—currently dedicated to the 2014 champion Martin Kaymer—and the wall of clubs donated by the past champions. The players this week also got to register in the Presidents Cup Library, right next to the Presidents Cup trophy. After registration, juniors had the privilege of being assigned a locker shared by one of the past participants of THE PLAYERS. If all of that isn’t enough, players then made their way down to the Tunnel of Champions where they were introduced to their personal caddie who would be with them all week. Walking through the facility is a true source of inspiration and celebration of some of the most outstanding golfers of all times.
The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf is the only AJGA event where the players are allowed the help of professional caddies. Many say their favorite part about the week is the opportunity to be paired with a professional caddie who has extensive knowledge about TPC Sawgrass. The caddies also enjoy getting to watch golf’s next generation as they battle one of the most challenging courses in the world.
International field of champions
The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf brings together 78 of the world’s best juniors. This year players from 17 states and 17 countries, including Alberta, Argentina, Australia, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, and United Kingdom, teed it up at TPC Sawgrass, making the field one of the most international on the AJGA schedule. The statistics speaks for itself when describing the talent on site this week:
- 44 players have claimed AJGA titles during their careers.
- 43 players have already committed to play for the college of their choice.
- 25 players have been crowned champions in 2014.
TPC Sawgrass – THE PLAYERS Stadium Course’s signature hole is the par-3, No. 17, widely known as the “Island Green”. The hole measures 132 yards but the depth of the green measures just 26 paces. Although most good players only need to use a wedge to get over the water, the mental challenge is hard to overcome for many. We were told that over 120,000 balls are retrieved from the surrounding water every year. All players competing in The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf got a picture of their finish with the infamous green in the background.
After the practice round, players gathered in the TPC Sawgrass Media Center for information, social media training and the much anticipated annual inspirational speech from the TPC Sawgrass General Manager, Bill Hughes. The PGA TOUR’s Joel Schuchmann, D.J. Piehowski and Sean Martin came to talk to the players about dos and don’ts for social media. In today’s day and age, players have to be careful using social media, but if used in the right way it can enhance a player’s image.
To conclude the night, Bill Hughes, gave one of his famous inspirational speeches. He touched upon common denominators that make people successful and the importance of defining and overcoming your fears. He also congratulated all players for making it to TPC Sawgrass this week, but reminded them that players such as Morgan Hoffmann and Jordan Speith are the exception and not the rule, and consistent with the AJGA mission statement, he stressed the importance of a college degree by saying “families work half a lifetime to pay for college. AJGA provides a platform to earn a college golf scholarship. Get your education and find a school that is invested in your education and your game.”
Friday afternoon, after the conclusion of the first round, AJGA juniors participated in the HUG, HEAL Social Activity. This event brought the young autistic athletes of HUG, HEAL and Special Olympics Area 5 to TPC Sawgrass for some one-on-one instruction with the junior golfers. This event gave the juniors the opportunity to give back to the community and see how their talents can be put to great use. During the event, juniors and their young athletes took turns hitting off the range and hitting “over the wall.” The AJGA juniors participating in the activities all spoke about how humbling and rewarding the experience was.