2013 PLAYERS & Ponte Vedra: THE Golf Capital of the World!

Five years ago, not knowing one soul here, Andy Reistetter came to Ponte Verda to embark on a new career in golf. Today with well over 100 tournaments of tour experience as a volunteer, broadcast assistant and golf writer, he calls Ponte Vedra home. Hopefully, you are already aware that Ponte Vedra is the Golf Capital of the World. If not, Reistetter, through Ponte Vedra Life's new Golf Department, will not only make you aware, but convince you and others that it is so. Starting with this first article in the series "Out on Tour," it is PLAYERS’ time all the time keeping you in touch with golf and our friends and neighbors who work and play out there on tour.   Coming to Ponte Vedra in early May to compete in THE PLAYERS Championship is all the validation that one needs to know they have achieved success as a professional golfer. Being in that field means you have earned a tour card and are one of only 125 golfers with the right and privilege to play on the PGA TOUR, the world's premier peregrination in golf. All such professional golfers are "home" in Ponte Vedra as TPC Sawgrass belongs to and is the home club of PGA TOUR players. Once a professional golfer, your hope and dream is to come home to Ponte Vedra more than once. You want to be like local residents Vijay Singh and Jim Furyk who have played 20 and 17 times respectively. You want to be like Bud Cauley who played in his first PLAYERS last year at age 22 after rocketing to the PGA TOUR, bypassing Q-School like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. You want to be like Ponte Vedra's own Fred Funk who won THE PLAYERS in 2005 at 48 years old. Ultimately, in one's golfing career, your target shifts slightly southwest, 25 miles from the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse in Ponte Vedra to a place where young and old legends receive what everyone calls "the highest honor in golf." Instead of walking down and playing golf on the lush fairways of the Stadium Course, you want a bronze sculpture of your head in Shell Hall at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine. From conception to destiny, all in golf is found, experienced and witnessed right here in Northeast Florida. From the turn onto Championship Way, the distance to the Clubhouse is a walk of 700 or so paces, and it is worth the walk. First on the corner, etched in aluminum and hung on a lamppost is the mural of Jack Nicklaus, "the greatest golfer of all time." His three triumphs in The PLAYERS, "the modern major," 72 tour wins, including his 18 historic major titles are the merit upon which that title is bestowed. The walk begins with a burst of beauty on the corner with the incredible landscaping of TPC Sawgrass. While truly exceptional during THE PLAYERS, it is amazing every day of the year. Soon after beginning to walk, one sees on the left and the right, the subtle corporate one-story home of the PGA TOUR. Commissioner Tim Finchem's office is housed on the right in the West Building. While representing the interest of the players, the tour has raised over $1.7 billion for charity. “Together, Anything's Possible," begins right here in Ponte Vedra. As your walk continues, the road meanders a bit as it gently rises to the high point of the TPC property, the Clubhouse. Before you get there, you will see portraits of all THE PLAYERS' champions including the likes of Calvin Peete, 2013 Hall of Fame inductee Freddie Couples, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. Through the pine trees one gets a glimpse of the first green, and as we follow the hole backwards to the tee, we make the final turn. There she is, the Clubhouse, the Home of THE PLAYERS, and TPC Sawgrass. While the island green is where the dramatic game of golf takes place, the Clubhouse is where the excitement and entertainment occur for most people. Whether it is a drink in Nineteen or a dinner in Traditions, a wedding of hundreds or a small private gathering, it seems like there is always a new experience waiting for you when you arrive at the Clubhouse. Social Club and Golf Club memberships are available for even more access and fun here in Ponte Vedra and throughout the world at almost 30 TPC locations. Indeed, you can be treated like one of the 125 tour players at your home club, TPC Sawgrass. An interesting historical event took place on the back lawn of the Clubhouse at the 2008 PLAYERS when Jack received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the PGA TOUR. Commissioner Finchem read a letter from Tiger who was absent from the ceremony and tournament due to his left knee injury. Tiger's words, in the letter, spoke to Nicklaus and the world of golf: "Your impact on golf has been incredible to say the least and I count myself among the millions of fans who consider you to be the greatest of all time." Coincidentally, in 2012 Tiger won Arnold Palmer's tournament at Bay Hill. The 36-year old Woods (now 37 with a December 30th birthday) then won Jack's tournament at Muirfield Village to tie Jack in all-time tour wins at 72. He surpassed Jack by winning his own tournament in July to become second to Sam Snead's record 82 victories. If 'V' is for Victory, then 'PV' stands for Ponte Vedra, the Golf Capital of the World. This year will be a great year in golf and in Ponte Vedra. Will Rory McIlroy become the new Tiger Woods? Or will the old Tiger reemerge to win majors after demonstrating his desire, commitment and ability in 2012? Tiger could tie the Golden Bear's record with the ultimate Grand Slam this year. Of course, we have THE 40th PLAYERS to look forward to as well as the Induction Ceremony of Freddie Couples, Ken Venturi, Willie Park Jr., Ken Schofield and Colin Montgomerie at the Hall of Fame. Whatever happens, look for the next issue of Ponte Vedra Life. I am out on tour and taking you with me, always longing to return home to Ponte Vedra. Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer as well as a Spotter, Research and Broadcast Assistant for The Golf Channel, NBC and CBS Sports. He spends time on all four major American golf tours the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours and is always looking to witness the excitement of junior or collegiate golf. Reistetter resides within two miles of the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach. A lifetime golfer, Reistetter enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame and THE PLAYERS while pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it. He can be reached through email at AndyReistetter@gmail.com