After dropping 10 inches of rain on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, thank God the rain stopped over the weekend. The monsoon-like weather raised the level of water, cutting off the pathway, making the 17th green truly an island green. There was talk at the volunteer party on Saturday night that the Clubhouse may become an Ark above rising waters if needed. Many thoughts, perspectives and prayers for this the 40th edition of The Players were shared. Here is a synopsis of the community, professional golf and human spirit that is The Players 2013.
We think of the children that will benefit from the $50 million that is being donated by The Players Championship over a 10-year period. The Champions for Education Conference held at TPC Sawgrass last week enlightened many as to what a dynamic coalition of private and public leaders, headlined by former Governor Jeb Bush, can accomplish with good need, heartfelt commitment and steely determination.
The spirit of McKenzie Noelle Wilson, a vibrant and vivacious 15-year-old who passed away from a rare and sudden illness on August 17, 2010, is alive and well at her namesake foundation Kid Zone behind the 17th tee. We celebrate in the joy, friendship and excitement of the children playing in the Game Truck, on the putt-putt course and doing arts and crafts with the loving memory of McKenzie.
We think of the women who attended the Executive Women's Day on Monday at the Clubhouse. The memories of two young Junior Achievement Girls, Brianna and her sister Brea, who shared their story and reminded us of what a difference a mentor can make in the lives of young people. Leading with the honesty that she was nervous brought a brief lightness and laughter and a lasting connection with the audience. Women helping girls develop into women. Knowing we can brighten each other's day.
The spirit and excitement of the Executive Women's Day is captured, preserved and to be shared all tournament week long in the Astella's Women Pavilion near the tenth tee. A celebration of women and a reminder to maintain a lifelong focus on health this is a tournament experience for women and men alike.
Although The Players 5K with Donna was rained out on Saturday morning, the spirit was not dampened by even one of the million rain drops. All 1,250 runners will be back for the Pink Out on Sunday that benefits The 26.2 (marathon) with Donna. Sunday is Mother's Day, wear pink and give your mom a hug if you can. If not, celebrate her in a special way.
We celebrated the military moms-to-be with an Operation Shower on Saturday in the Clubhouse. Their husbands are deployed and far away from home at a time when they are needed most. Dedicated service to God, Country and Family is difficult at these times and organizations like the PGA Tour and Birdies for the Brave make the unbearable more bearable.
We are thankful for the military and how they protect our democracy. Last year 20,612 complimentary tickets were issued to active duty, reserve, military retirees and their dependents. The Players hosted a Military Job Fair with more than 50 companies present embracing job seekers. The Birdies for the Brave Patriots' Outpost welcomes the military with complimentary food, beverages and activities. It is no coincidence that the Patriots' Outpost is located on the highest point of land on the golf course adjacent to the 18th fairway. Unlike a defensive position in battle, this is the bright light to shine the furthest in the peace of a golf tournament.
We are thankful for today, Military Appreciation Day, saluting the United States Navy. There will be military pageantry, a performance by a children's choir and speeches by dignitaries. Dierks Bentley, a patriotic country music star will perform. In years past a pregnant wife was reunited with her military husband after being secretly flown home from the Arabian Sea and two Wounded Warriors were surprised with keys to a mortgage-free homes for their families.
We heard an uplifting message this morning at breakfast with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Webb Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open Champion shared his journey and by doing so made our journey lighter. Golfers Stewart Cink and Kevin Streelman shared how their faith evens out the peaks and valleys of life on the PGA Tour. When too high one is reminded of God, when too low one is supported by Him. Artist Jared Emerson faced the canvas and created a painting of Simpson in 12 minutes while dancing to the music of musical guest Tenth Street North. Although kids outnumbered the adults almost ten-to-one, all in the audience were mesmerized by the spirit that we witnessed this morning.
This is a prayer for the agnostic or atheist as well as the believer. Whether you see the spirit in a religious, spiritual or simple human sense, we all celebrate The Players 2013. This is a fun and meaningful event. Improved A1A traffic, free carpooling parking, a new Taste of Jacksonville hotspot near the 12th tee, new permanent bathrooms, Lot Parties galore, embracing technology on the 17th with video board displays of texting and tweeting audience participation in Closest-to-the-Pin contests and throughout the course with FanVision handheld televisions will all make the human experience better at this year's Players.
Golf is a transformational game. Whether within one's self or within one's community, golf brings good things to pass. I can’t help but think golf played around the world and throughout the world will be a good thing in years to come. A dozen of the 39 Players to date have been won by an international player. May the spirit of golf be carried to all places in the world.
Other than the weather, there is much to be thankful for, at this time of the 40th The Players Championship.
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