Memories of the 2008 Honda Classic won by Ernie Els—My First Event on Tour!

1.1 Andy with Ernie Els 2008 Honda Classic Champion Wed 2-27-08

With Ernie Els in 2008 at the Honda Classic.

The 2008 Honda Classic was my first event when I went out on tour!

Having written two books and with golf an inspiration throughout my life, I had decided to leave Corporate America and pursue a golf career. I chose Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida since the PGA TOUR was headquartered there and THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP was at TPC Sawgrass every year. It also fulfilled a childhood dream to live in Florida just like Doc Donlin. Plus it was the beach! Looking back I could not have made a better choice and consider this area, along with the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine and the PGA Merchandise Show and The Golf Channel in Orlando, the modern capital of golf.

My career transition plan was simple. Come to Ponte Vedra for two weeks to get the lay of the land and then volunteer for the four Florida Swing tournaments starting with the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens. I wanted to learn the golf business from the bottom up. Did I know golf writing, golf travel and golf broadcasting would be where I ended? Not really but I did hope to land a job with the PGA TOUR. Looking back it amazes me the how my journey in golf evolved. A ‘No’ in one area turned into ‘YES’ in another and with nine seasons under my belt I can say I have enjoyed it all.

1 Andy Reistetter w Ernie Els Oubaai 12-30-16

With Ernie Els at Oubaai in South Africa on December 30th, 2016.

Actually, the volunteering turned into a paid broadcasting assistant position before I even knew it or even traveled south for the Honda Classic. Erin from NBC Sports saw my name on a volunteer scorer list for the Innisbrook tournament and called me up to see if I wanted to be a “spotter.” I didn’t know what that was at the time and asked her what it was. “We assign you to a group, you walk inside the ropes and report by radio players and shots to sequence the broadcast and we will pay you.” That sounded like fun to me and I asked if they needed me at the Honda and she said yes.

So at that very first tournament I volunteered for the tournament as a Shotlink guy and also worked as a spotter for NBC. I did manage to take a few pictures early in the week and 57 of them are in the gallery below.

The 18th back in 2008...

The 18th back in 2008…

The story of course that week was Ernie Els first tour victory in four years. I got to meet him and get a picture with him. As it turned out I would see him a few more times over the years, most recently in South Africa at his home course at Oubaai. No nicer guy on tour, big-hearted and definitely the “Big Easy!” He would go on to win again at 2010 WGC at Doral, the 2010 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and of course, his fourth Major at the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

So many beautiful memories and friendships made that continue today from that very first 2008 Honda Classic for me!