Playing TPC Sawgrass and Facing the Iconic 17th Hole
Article by Golfshake Ambassador Andrew Picken
Six more sleep’s. That’s all. Six. The excitement is unbearable. Why can’t I sleep?
Many months ago I was representing Golfshake by captaining a side of four playing in a Pro Am Charity Day at Kedleston Park Golf Club in Derbyshire. We were supporting the Rainbows Hospice Charity Supporting Life Limited Children in the Midlands. I was playing with my son and two willing volunteers. The unbelievable happened on the 4th hole and I recorded a hole in one. This was how it felt at the time.
A Hole in One - A Golfer's Story
Fast Forward to November and I am driving 350 miles to Gleneagles to play the PGA Centenary Ryder Cup Course in the UK Final of the Hole in One Club. I have a nasty injury to my rotator cuff in the right shoulder and I have held off from surgery to ensure that at least I can turn up.
20 golfers had qualified throughout the year and I had regularly checked the website as new names were added to the list. That’s a lie. I had with manic precision checked each week as every new candidate was added to the list. I knew only 12 went to the USA and as we reached double figures I found myself hoping and wishing for every other golfer in the club to pack up. Watching the list grow and grow in September was a torment.
The qualifying period is April 1st to September 30th each year. Each HIO is closely verified and checked before being accepted onto the list of winners. At stake was a trip to play TPC Sawgrass in Orlando in the winner’s Grand Final.
We stay at the Hilton Garden Inn at Sawgrass. Day one is a guided tour of the Sawgrass Estate, The home of the PGA Tour followed by a competitive round on the Dye Valley Course.
Day Two is the second round of the individual stableford event held at the Stadium Course of the TPC, venue of The PLAYERS Championship. This includes the iconic 17th Island green. We later have a formal dinner and presentation of prizes donated by sponsors Callaway and SkyCaddie golf.
We then move to visit the World Golf Hall of Fame before travelling down to Rosen Centre Hotel, International Drive, Orlando. We then have a choice, either get a day off or we can choose to visit the nearby Bay Hill Golf Club to watch Tiger Woods and the others play in the final day of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This is followed by a team event played at Southern Dunes GC. We then play another team event at Shingle Creek. Again best two scores from 3 for the team prizes. The group then spends a half day in the PGA Superstore before transfer back to the airport.
As winners we have all been issued with shirts, belts and putter covers. We have also been given a lovely leather holdall for use on the flight.
Excitement now has changed to terror. I remember the cameras and announcer at Gleneagles on the first tee. More importantly I remember the effect it had on my digestive system. My opening drive resulted in a reload in order to keep up pace of play.
With the bad weather and issues with family members being ill I have not swung a club in earnest since December. I dream of the tee shot on the 17th with splashes accompanying every dream.
I am looking forward to this but am also terrified of making an absolute chump of myself. I start to research how to deal with first tee nerves and immediately regret my decision. Positive thoughts wash over my attempts to visualise the perfect shot.
I travel to my local driving range and see that they have a marker post situated at exactly 133 yards. This is my 17th at TPC Sawgrass. Balls grouped into fives and concentrate. Grip, Alignment, Stance, Posture. GASP. A single, simple swing thought disappears into a fog of despair as all five shots are hit with a consistent hook that would have made Bubba proud. My only consolation is that three of them were so far left that they may have still been dry.
Not a great way to inspire confidence for the most important tournament of my golf life.
I am just an average golfer in all respects. I love the game and its traditions and the fact that as a lowly amateur I do get to play at some of the most globally iconic venues. I will never play football at Wembley or cricket at Lords but I can, and do, access some of the world’s greatest golf locations.
The fact that I am doing this for the princely sum of £5 is remarkable.
Is it worth the sleepless nights? 100% yes. This is the golfing trip of a lifetime that I am able to share with my family. My son is flying from his university to join his Dad playing this amazing venue. I cannot think of a better way to spend a cold and wintry March.
If you have any tips as to how I can reduce the nervous tension before this event I would love to hear them. I would also like any hints or tips as to how to play this world famous golf hole. What would you do in my position?
I have just been watching a repeat on TV of the Players Championship and watching professional golfers dunk their shots into the water.
My initial strategy is simply to take extra balls in my luggage.
I keep telling myself simply to enjoy the experience but I can’t help my competitive juices that always flow and make me want to do my best on any course I play. Sometimes this effort is self defeating, but at other times it provides a real focus that leads to success. It remains to be seen how this resolves itself.
For more information about The Hole in One Club, visit the Official Website.
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