Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stadium Golf a Favorite Now

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Stadium Golf a Favorite Now

Article excerpt

At first it was a curiosity.

Stadium golf. Fans would never have a better view.

Then, players on the PGA Tour found out that the Tournament

Players Club at Sawgrass Stadium course provided fans with a

view of golf they really would have preferred to be kept

private.

Water and marsh everywhere, parallel to holes, in front of the

greens, even completely surrounding one of them.

There were also waste bunkers big enough to hold a pitch and

putt par3 hole, pot bunkers, grass bunkers, trees, thick rough,

sparse greens and infernal winds howling off the Atlantic Ocean.

Target golf. Players would never have a peaceful moment.

The horror stories have included rounds in the 80s, double-digit

scores on single holes -- especially on the Island Green at No.

17 -- and more than one hack to get a ball out of deep rough.

Jerry Pate was so happy about winning the first Players

Championship on the stadium course in 1982 that he took his

now-famous dive into the pond along the 18th green, making sure

PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and course designer Pete Dye

went with him. Many players since then have wanted to jump, and

usually not because they won the tournament.

But in the 15 years since then, the course has evolved from what

players saw as an evil theme park born in Dye's twisted mind to

a mature track which demands every kind of shot -- yet makes its

demands fairly.

Major changes were made early in the life of the stadium course

when the pros clamored about its unforgiving nature. Their

complaints swung the other way in 1994 when Greg Norman broke or

equaled course records for 9, 18, 36, 54 and finally for 72

holes. One year later, high winds resulted in Lee Janzen's

victory in 5under par, equaling the highest winning score since

The Players moved to the Stadium course.

Now, everyone seems to be happy. When The Players begins

Thursday for the 15th time on the stadium course, there won't be

petitions and complaints from players, or sarcastic remarks such

as Jack Nicklaus' now famous statement, "I've never been good at

stopping 4-irons on the hoods of Volkswagens," or John

Mahaffey's label, "The Marriott Muni. …

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