There are some invitations that are simply destined for a "no" in the RSVP box - doomed before they're even given the dignity of a postage stamp. Co-ed baby showers and wedding invitations with 5 layers of envelopes particularly come to mind. A few weeks ago, I received an invitation and, once over the excitement of actually getting legitimate mail, I couldn't help but marvel at its efficient use of the art of the hook. One little card, seven magical little words.
Birdies, Burgers, and Brews at TPC Sawgrass
Count Me In.
The folks at TPC - the collection of public and private golf courses owned by the PGA Tour - invited a group of my blogger colleagues and I down to show off their most storied destination: the TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. Apparently it was in need of some extra exposure because, you know, hosting the richest prize in golf and having one of the most recognizable holes in the game just doesn't cut it anymore. Naturally, we were all happy to help.
|My kind of lobby...|
MJ and I visited TPC Sawgrass earlier this year to check out the multi-million dollar renovation which was underway at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. One of the key areas which had yet to open at the time was the new Alice & Pete's Pub - named after the designers of the two golf courses at Sawgrass. It just so happened that's where the festivities for this event - affectionately known as #BBBatTPC - were slated to begin.
|Great place to kick back after a round...|
I've made no hiding over the years of my deep appreciation for the hotel bar, and Alice & Pete's is definitely near the top of the list. As a guy that has always wanted to chip a golf ball to the mini-island green in the pond outside the Sawgrass Marriott, Alice & Pete's won me over by making that dream came true. I also discovered a new love of Table Shuffleboard - a game I didn't even know existed - which appealed to my curling addiction during the Winter Olympics. After a couple hours celebrating the start of #BBBatTPC, naturally I was the first to call it a night - we had a 9am date with The Stadium Course.
When I received that stellar invitation a few weeks ago, I was presented with a choice: work on my game in the time leading up to the round at Sawgrass, or just show up and hope for the best. I chose the latter, and boy did I get it.
For the first 13 holes of our round, I played simply out of my mind. 4 birdies, 2 bogeys and 7 pars. I stood on the 14th tee at two-under par, the longest I had ever kept a round in red numbers (Mind you, I'm an 8 handicap). A feat that was even more incredible considering I had less swings during the round than tweets sent, and our friends in the group ahead were up to a few shenanigans.
Although I had clearly begun to leak quite a bit of oil, I arrived at the 17th still only 1-over par and on track for the best round of my golfing career. All that I had to do was navigate two of the scariest holes in the game - piece of cake.
|Houston...we have splashdown.|
Two pushed 8-irons into the water, a lackadaisical chip from the drop zone, and three putts later, I walked off the island green with an unimaginable quintuple-bogey, 8. I was heartbroken. But there was no time to shed a tear - although I really wanted to, or maybe toss my clubs into the lake - the ridiculously tough 18th still lay ahead and I needed bogey or better to card a score in the 70's. The Deej of holes 1-13 somehow returned with a perfect drive down the middle, a solid approach to the middle of the green, and two putts for par.
If you had told me at the start of the day that I'd shoot a number in the 70's, I'd have first said you were crazy, but I'd have taken it and run all the way home. The thought of what might have been surely takes away some of the luster from the round, however it's not every day that a guy can say he played one of the best rounds of his life on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass.
After a post-round lunch which consisted of a "create your own burger bar" - fried egg please - we headed back to the hotel where I enjoyed the best 45 minute power nap of my life.
Finally, it was back to the $32 million clubhouse and into the men's locker room for dinner in a space known as the Champion's Game Room. This room is the inner sanctum for Tour members both during The Players Championship and all year round for those that live at TPC Sawgrass. There were stories of ping-pong grudge matches between top-10 players and chairs accidentally broken by certain former Tour commissioners, but what was most impressive was our access to the room in the first place. Members of the Sawgrass staff, many of whom had been with the club for years, had never even set foot in the room, much less played ping-pong on Matt Kuchar's favorite table.
|Vijay didn't respond to tweets to come join us.|
The highlight of the evening, however, was the incredible culinary display put on by the Sawgrass staff. I have been fortunate to dine in numerous award-winning restaurants across the country, and this one ranked right up there with some of the best. But this wasn't some special menu put together by the chef to impress a group of bloggers; all of the dishes we enjoyed are served in the clubhouse dining room every evening.
And therein lies part of what makes the TPC Sawgrass different from all of the other great venues in the game - where most seek to exclude, Sawgrass wants to include. You don't have to be a member or even a guest at the Sawgrass Marriott hotel to spend an evening living like a Tour pro. The pearly gates out front and the ridiculously beautiful clubhouse might give another impression, but to enjoy this shrine to the game of golf, all you have to do is show up.
No doubt about it, #BBBatTPC was one of the most fun weekends in my recent memory. From the camaraderie with my fellow bloggers, to our nightly shuffleboard matches, to the incredible day on The Stadium and dining on Vijay's pool table, the event was, in a word, spectacular. The TPC Sawgrass is a truly special place, just waiting to create equally incredible memories for every golfer that dreams of visiting the Home of The Players.
Enjoy Your Stay