INSIDE THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP
The Players Tournament does not have a long and rich history in the majors; however, the history it does have is very interesting and important to the PGA Tour. If you ask the PGA Tour, they want the Players Tournament to be a major, and have done their best to make the tournament a major in the players themselves. Joe Dey, the first commissioner of the PGA Tour then called the Tournament Players Division of the PGA, had the original vision for the tournament. The tournament was played on four different courses before landing on it’s current home, TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. No tournament in the world pays more to the victor than The Players Tournament, which in 2013, paid $1.71 Million dollars to Tiger Woods. The large purse is a big reason the tournament fields are some of the greatest in the world. The beginnings of the tournament are quite interesting, as well as, the beginnings of the course the tournament now calls home.
The original idea for the Tournament Players Championship, the original name, was to reward the Tour’s best sponsors with the season ending tournament hosted in the sponsor’s local communities. The first tournament was in 1974, on Labor Day weekend hosted at The Atlanta Country Club in Georgia with a purse of $250,000, the largest purse at the time. The tournament was billed as the Super Bowl for the Tournament Players Division. The European tour had the British Open, the USGA had the US Open, the PGA had the PGA Championship, and the Masters stood alone on its own. The Tour needed it’s own tournament, and found their tournament in the Tournament Players Championship. The ‘Major’ talk came out right away, with Lee Trevino saying that this tournament should replace the Masters in golf’s Grand Slam. Jack Nicklaus contended the new tournament should become a major. Nicklaus, who had won three of the first five Players Championships said, “If we took our Tour and started to cooperate with the tours in other areas and make a worldwide tour, then this would be the championship of a world tour and could likely gain a major status” (Schupak, 2011, p. 114).
Dean Beman, the new Tournament Players Division Commissioner, immediately moved the event to the spring. He felt it would have better coverage, while not contending with the kickoff of the NFL season. Beman also had a different vision of the tournament than his predecessor, Joe Dey. He felt that the tournament needed a permanent home, and since the tournament was a Tour specific event the Tour needed to own that home. Beman’s opinion was formed after holding the tournament in 1975 at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. The staff and volunteers at Colonial did not put as much effort into the tournament because their ‘baby’ was the The Colonial tournament, not The Players. Due to the Players Championship not having the stature yet of the US Open, the tournament was not embraced as he felt it needed to be by other course owners. Searches were done around the country, and the first bid Deane Beman had was at the Sawgrass Country Club, which is currently across the street from the now famous TPC Sawgrass.
In March of 1976, while on vacation with his son, Darby, Deane Beman attended the Greater Jacksonville Open. By recommendation of a tournament official, Beman and his son took a trip to Ponte Vedra Beach to try Sawgrass Country Club. Deane Beman fell in love with the place and the area which he thought was desolate. While playing Sawgrass with this son, he noted, “You could shoot a gun down any fairway and not hit anybody” (Schupak, 2011, p. 116). Beman liked the place so much, he and his son stopped after nine holes because he was so anxious to talk to tournament officials about using the site. In addition, Beman liked the idea of using Sawgrass Country Club due to the Greater Jacksonville Open being so embraced by the...
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Schupak, A (2011). Deane Beman – Golf’s Driving Force Orlando, FL: East Cottage Press.
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