By Tim Jackman (@AJGAJackman), AJGA Communications
When you watch a live sporting event on TV it can almost appear as if it is from another world. The people and the places seem made up in some way. If you watched THE PLAYERS Championship on TV this year, you were not alone. Sunday’s final round received the third-highest rating in the last decade of THE PLAYERS. But how could you not watch Rickie Fowler go birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie in his final four holes to force a playoff? It was captivating to watch, but did it almost seem not real? What about in 2001 when Tiger dropped an impossible birdie putt that was “better than most” on No. 17 on moving day and eventually went on to win? All these events can seem so distant. But this week for 78 boys, those memories will come to life.
The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf is near the top of the junior golf pinnacle. The world’s best boy junior golfers will compete in a 54-hole tournament designed to give the juniors the TOUR experience.
In 2010 alone, the event featured six of the top-10 finishers are now playing professionally. Jordan Spieth (T2), Emiliano Grillo (T2), Patrick Rodgers (7th), Daniel Berger (T8) and Ollie Schniederjans (T8).
At the 2015 THE PLAYERS Championship, five players made the transition from The Junior PLAYERS Championship presented by TaylorMade-adidas Golf to the pro event. Morgan Hoffmann won the inaugural junior event in 2007, and he was joined by Brooks Koepka (T9, 2007), Justin Thomas (T38, 2008; T26, 2009), Jordan Spieth (T2, 2010) and Daniel Berger (T8, 2010).
This year the field strength is no different. Twenty-two of the top-25 players in the Polo Golf Rankings will compete. Joining the top players are 16 international boys who have earned their way via accomplishments in their home countries. These players look to challenge THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, with hole locations mimicking the TOUR event and caddies helping them navigate the many water hazards and difficult angles.
Nobody can predict who will win this week, but one thing is for sure, there is nothing quite like the feeling of walking the same fairways as some of golf’s greatest and making your own unforgettable golf moments.