Olympic Spirit of Golf Starts at TPC Sawgrass! (2013 Web.com Tour Championship)

TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse

Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass is all decked out for Military Tribute and Web.com Championship!

I first came to Ponte Vedra Beach in late January 2008. I left a corporate career to pursue a life in golf. Not sure exactly where in golf I was smart enough to choose Ponte Vedra, home of the PGA TOUR, TPC Sawgrass and of course THE PLAYERS Championship each year on the Stadium Course. Soon afterwards I discovered the World Golf Hall of Fame in nearby St. Augustine. In a way the spirit of golf drew me here and now I will take a bit of that spirit with me on a road trip to Rio de Janeiro, site of golf once again in the 2016 Summer Olympics after an absence of 112 years. I hope to discover and define the sense of the Olympic Spirit of Golf. I realized this week during the Web.com Championship on Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass that for me that Olympic Spirit of Golf starts right here at TPC Sawgrass.

Championship on Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Web.com Tour Championship on Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.

What is the Olympic Spirit of Golf? I do not know nor does anyone since it has not existed for 109 years. It has been two or three generations since Olympic Golf was played at Glen Echo CC in St. Louis in the 1904 Olympics. No one on Earth has experienced it or knows someone that has. The concept intrigues me both personally and professionally. It has also motivated me to travel over 14,000 miles to begin to seek out the answer. The closest thing in my mind is somewhere between playing in a Major Championship or a Ryder Cup or a Presidents Cup (and I have been to 18 of them) and being inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame (I have been to the last 4 Induction Ceremonies). “Golf’s Highest Honor” on the World Stage. The golfing spirit I felt at this week’s Web.com Tour Championship seems like a good place to start so here is my thoughts and experiences from the week!

Jim Furyk with my new friends at the Web.com luncheon at the Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass.

Jim Furyk with my new friends at the Web.com luncheon at the Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass.

I like to think of THE PLAYERS and now the Web.com Tour Championship (this year was the first one ever with a combined Tour Championship and Q-School feel) as a golf tournament with Disneyland outside the ropes. Tournament Director Matt Rapp has figured out the secret formula to make these events a family and community experience. During the two professional golf tournaments at TPC Sawgrass this year I have attended an education conference, a women’s leadership conference and this week a small business conference put on by Web.com. Then there are the fundraisers for HEAL (Helping Every Autistic Life) and The First Tee of North Florida among others. Jim Furyk, Mr. 59 himself stopped by our table during lunch and a few minutes later David Brown, Web.com CEO came by and thanked US for attending the seminar!

Military Appreciation Day at the Web.com Tour Championship.

Military Appreciation Day at the Web.com Tour Championship.

With my entrepreneurial spirit refreshed by Web.com earlier in the day I checked out what was going on outside the Clubhouse after play on Friday. I had a front row seat for the Military Appreciation Ceremony featuring remarks from Captain Wesley McCall, Commanding Officer of Naval Station Mayport, and a special presentation by Jim Furyk where he gave the key to a mortgage-free home to a deserving military man and his wife. Jacksonville is a huge military town and the sense of pride and patriotism was prevalent everywhere including American flags replacing the various national flags above the practice facility. Somewhere in that Olympic Spirit of Golf I am sure to find a bit of patriotism but in some sort of fourth dimension of peaceful coexistence?

How could I leave a front row seat on such a beautiful evening? I hung around for the free Blues Travelers concert. John Popper was brilliant on the harmonica with heartfelt vocals. Music surely activates our spirit in so many wonderful ways. Will golf inspire a new definition of the Olympic Spirit?

John Popper, Blues Traveler…

How could I leave a front row seat on such a beautiful evening? I hung around for the free Blues Travelers concert. John Popper was brilliant on the harmonica with heartfelt vocals. Music surely activates our spirit in so many wonderful ways. Will golf inspire a new definition of the Olympic Spirit?

As I mentioned this week seemed to kick-off my “Journey to Olympic Golf.” While there are still 15 days until I tee-off at Glen Echo CC wearing knickers and playing my authentic and professionally

Yours truly Andy Reistetter with the "Funny Caddy" ESPN Reporter Michael Collins.

Yours truly Andy Reistetter with the “Funny Caddy” ESPN Reporter Michael Collins.

restored hickory-shafted clubs there are only 11 days left before I leave home for St. Louis. An unexpected gesture came from comedian-turned-caddie-turned-ESPN reporter Michael Collins who videotaped a feature interview of JTOG. We had a lot of fun, me sitting, him standing eye-to-eye laughing as I explained how I am trying to raise $100,000 for The First Tee. Simple math is 1,000 friends contributing $100 each but I only have like 10 friends (just kidding of course as we are off to a good start to having 100 donators by Tee-Off). I’ll let you know when the video is posted!

Jerry Foltz, Michael Collins and Andy Reistetter on the 17th tee, Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass.

Jerry Foltz, Michael Collins and Andy Reistetter on the 17th tee, Stadium Course, TPC Sawgrass.

Michael and I happened to be paired with Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz and his friend Frank, a.k.a “Triple F” (Foltzy’s Friend Frank). So many of the talented people at the Golf Channel whether in front of the camera or behind it or whether on the golf course or in the truck have given me so many great ideas on how to orchestrate this “Journey to Olympic Golf” that I want to thank them all! Hopefully I make it back from Rio de Janeiro for the PGA Show in Orlando in m id January and will buy you all a beer. If not then I am in Paradise South somewhere (Paradise North is Ponte Vedra Beach) and you will have to come find me. For the record Foltzy is eligible age and talent wise for the Champions Tour and I am thinking Michael and him would make a good  player-caddie team. A double Lee Trevino walking down the fairway! I use to be able to hit this green when I aimed for the middle of it. I aimed at the back right Sunday hole location and pulled a ‘Goydos.’

Wedding at TPC Sawgrass during Web.com Tour Championship on "Marriage Day" (Saturday).

Wedding at TPC Sawgrass during Web.com Tour Championship on “Marriage Day” (Saturday).

Where else but TPC Sawgrass do you see not one, but two, or any weddings on a Saturday during a professional golf tournament? Puts a whole new meaning to the term “Moving Day.” It was my first wedding (okay I was watching from the veranda within earshot) in six years at TPC Sawgrass. I was at Bea’s 90th birthday party but never a wedding. The ceremony was fairly brief though I remember the priest sharing something about love being two souls finding one another and realizing how special and precious an occurrence that is. Of course I was thinking about golf and the Olympics finding one another after 112 years. Match made in Heaven and let the games begin… in a little over 1,000 days from now. All I need to do is find one new friend a day…

Chesson Hadley raises his hat to signal victory in the 2013 Web.com Tour Championship on Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Chesson Hadley raises his hat to signal victory in the 2013 Web.com Tour Championship on Dye’s Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass.

Back to the Web.com Tour Championship. Chesson Hadley, a 26-year old Georgia Bulldog (which is sure to make Billy Kratzert happy) won the Tour Championship with a Sunday 1-under par 69. A rookie on the Web.com Tour this year he won the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, North Carolina which is the same hospital he was born in. Though he won the tournament he did not win the FINALS coveted Money Title. LSU’s John Peterson did by 567 dollars by virtue of his steady play in the four postseason events (T5,T3,3rd, T2 finishes). Michael Putnam had won the Regular Season Money Title at the Cox Classic in Omaha, Nebraska on August 25th.

Golf Channel's Jerry Foltz was the Master of Ceremonies for the Trophy and Card Ceremonies.

Golf Channel’s Jerry Foltz was the Master of Ceremonies for the Trophy and Card Ceremonies.

The back veranda of the Clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass was the stage for the Trophy Presentation and Card Ceremony for 50 happy Web.com golfers headed to the 2013/2014 PGA TOUR season (the inaugural wrap-around season). Now we will forever be lost in golfing time. Like the millennium, was it really 2000 or 2001, when did golf go to a year-round schedule, in 2013 or 2014? Excited spectators, tournament volunteers and families of the players watched from the expansive back lawn. Golf’s Channel Jerry Foltz mc’d the affair with words well-spoken by Web.com’s CEO David Brown, Web.com Tour President Bill Calfee and PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. Definitely not a graduation but a commencement of great things to come!

The 50 players who earned their 2013/14 tour cards are (in order of priority ranking) Michael Putnam, John Peterson, Chesson Hadley, Seung-Yul Noh, Andrew Svoboda, Trevor Immelman, Will MacKenzie, Scott Gardiner, Edward Loar, Ben Martin, Patrick Cantlay, Brendon Todd, Ryo Ishikawa, Brad Fritsch, Kevin Kisner, Sean O'Hair, Troy Matteson, Bud Cauley, Heath Slocum, Russell Knox, Hudson Swafford, Will Claxton, Brice Garnett, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Chad Collins, Billy Hurley III, Danny Lee, Jim Herman, Joe Durant, Troy Merritt, Lee Williams, Andrew Loupe, Ricky Barnes, Peter Malnati, Bobby Gates, Bronson La'Cassie, Alex Aragon, Tim Wilkinson, Jamie Lovemark, Wes Roach, Daniel Chopra, Alex Prugh, Miguel Angel Carballo, Jim Renner, Mark Anderson, Kevin Tway, Kevin Foley, Matt Bettencourt, Will Wilcox, and Benjamin Alvarado.

Welcome Class of 2013/2014! Play begins in one week at the Frys.com Open!

The 50 players who earned their 2013/14 tour cards are (in order of priority ranking) Michael Putnam, John Peterson, Chesson Hadley, Seung-Yul Noh, Andrew Svoboda, Trevor Immelman, Will MacKenzie, Scott Gardiner, Edward Loar, Ben Martin, Patrick Cantlay, Brendon Todd, Ryo Ishikawa, Brad Fritsch, Kevin Kisner,  Sean O’Hair, Troy Matteson, Bud Cauley, Heath Slocum, Russell Knox, Hudson Swafford, Will Claxton, Brice Garnett, Tyrone Van Aswegen, Chad Collins, Billy Hurley III,  Danny Lee,  Jim Herman, Joe Durant, Troy Merritt, Lee Williams, Andrew Loupe,  Ricky Barnes,  Peter Malnati,  Bobby Gates, Bronson La’Cassie, Alex Aragon, Tim Wilkinson, Jamie Lovemark, Wes Roach, Daniel Chopra, Alex Prugh, Miguel Angel Carballo, Jim Renner, Mark Anderson, Kevin Tway, Kevin Foley, Matt Bettencourt, Will Wilcox, and Benjamin Alvarado.

The sea of blue shirted volunteers for this week's Web.com Tour Championship. A spirited team of friends that will accompany me on the "Journey to Olympic Golf."

The sea of blue shirted volunteers for this week’s Web.com Tour Championship. A spirited team of friends that will accompany me on the “Journey to Olympic Golf.”

So what does this all mean in terms of the Olympic Spirit of Golf? Sometimes the spirit of an organization is found in the newcomers- there will be 14 rookies competing on PGA TOUR in the 2013/14 season. Who knows, perhaps one of them will be playing in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro? I met Argentina’s Miguel Angel Carballo and his caddie David Walker who lives in Panama. Maybe they will not only be on the way to the Olympics but there to compete in 2016? It was another great week at TPC Sawgrass, same as when Tiger Woods won his second PLAYERS Championship five months ago. Along with the ambience of the nearby World Golf Hall of Fame my seeking of the Olympic Spirit of Golf starts here. Come join me on an incredible journey!

Click here to donate to The First Tee, remember to select JTOG!

Here is more information on the “Journey to Olympic Golf”

I tee off in St. Louis with my hickory clubs where golf was last played in the Olympics in 1904 on October 15th and then drive 14,300 miles south through Mexico, Central & South America to Rio de Janeiro where golf will return to the Summer Olympics in 2016!

Part golf promotion, part personal journey to define the Olympic Spirit for Golf, something that has not been present for the last 112 years. After the 3-month journey I will return to Orlando for the 2014 PGA Show in Orlando.

The goal is to raise $100,000 for the First Tee.

Folks who donate before October 11th will receive my personal and intimate behind the scenes journaling during the trip. It can be interactive so if want to tell me to jump off a cliff in Santiago, Chile that is what I will do. In addition you will be entered into a drawing for a set of professionally restored and playable hickory clubs.

But you have to do it before October 11th, in less than 2 weeks. When you use the link below please select “Journey to Olympic Golf” from the drop-down menu for the question “What inspired you to make a gift today?” Please forward to me the ‘Thank You’ note received and I will enter you into the hickory clubs raffle

Will you please share with your golfing friends and folks who have a charitable budget yet to be spent this year?

On behalf of the kids in the First Tee, thank you so much for doing this!

My M30 Infiniti and I will be leaving TPC Sawgrass on October 18th heading to St. Louis to tee off on the 15th, then south through Mexico, Central and South America to Rio de Janeiro.

My M30 Infiniti and I will be leaving TPC Sawgrass on October 18th heading to St. Louis to tee off on the 15th, then south through Mexico, Central and South America to Rio de Janeiro.

 

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