The Players Championship 2011 Behind the Scenes

For the past two days, I have had the awesome opportunity to participate in the Junior Course Reporter program through The First Tee at a local golf course, the TPC at Sawgrass. The whole program allowed us to go behind the scenes in the golf tournament. It was awesome! I talked all about it in the two blogs I wrote about the experience on the PGA TOUR site. If you want to check out the blogs with pictures and everything, you can check them out here!

Here is the first day:

When I walked through the entrance to the TPC at Sawgrass to take part in the Junior Course Reporters program, I did not know what to expect. Even though I had an idea of what might occur, I was shocked to find that the experience exceeded my expectations. Although I have been to a few golf tournaments, I have never been able to experience all of the “behind the scenes” of a PGA TOUR golf tournament.

The first event of the day involved interviewing different TOUR players in the interview room. This room is used to house the press conferences during the tournament. First, I was able to meet with Matteo Manassero. It was interesting to talk with him because he is an 18-year-old professional that has some serious skills and confidence. After talking with Matteo, I was able to meet Jhonattan Vegas. When I asked him about his strategies to prepare for tournaments like the TPC at Sawgrass, he mentioned that mental preparation and physical preparation are vital. Although it is great to have many hours of practice, he said that it is best to have quality rest before a major championship.

After I was able to have the opportunity to meet with some players in the interview room, I was able to check out the fitness trailers. These particular trailers house all of the workout equipment and physical therapists for the professionals playing in the tournament. As we walked into the fitness trailer, Sergio Garcia was exiting from meeting with the physical therapists. After talking with Jeff Hendra, the physical therapist for the PGA TOUR, I learned that there are many common injuries in golf. Also, I was able to talk with players Mark Wilson and Jonathan Byrd inside of the fitness trailer that housed the workout equipment. It was interesting to talk about the physical preparations they complete before playing in a tournament. Each player has a set workout program to complete to stay healthy.

Although the interview and fitness trailers were neat to experience, I was impressed by the TaylorMade golf trailer. Inside this trailer, Wade Liles, a TaylorMade representative, was tweaking and constructing golf clubs for some players. One player that walked into the trailer to have all of his irons checked was Sean O’Hair. Also, Corey Pavin‘s caddie stopped by to have Pavin’s driver re-shafted. It was interesting to see how the players’ golf clubs were treated in the trailer.

From meeting and interviewing players to seeing the work that goes on behind the scenes, I experienced the some of the factors necessary for a major golf tournament. I even realized that the meteorologist is extremely important to create the golf tournament we all love to watch. Through all of the events I experienced today, I was able to understand the game of golf through much clearer lenses.

This is Brandon Gilliland signing off.

Here is the second day (yesterday):

On the final day of course reporting, I was able to meet the individuals responsible for creating the game of golf everyone knows and enjoys to watch. First, I was able to meet with Tim Finchem, the Commissioner for The PGA TOUR. During the meeting, I was able to gain insight into the daily life of someone in charge of every aspect of the PGA TOUR. Managing the media, managing the players, and organizing daily events are all apart of the jobs Commissioner Finchem is required to balance.

After meeting with Commissioner Finchem, I was able to meet with Billy Schroder, Vice President of Player Relations. While talking with Mr. Schroder, I was able to understand more into the advertising side of golf. With his role on the PGA TOUR, Mr. Schroder is responsible for making sure the players’ advertisements are being noticed. This is an important job in making The PGA TOUR successful because the income relies mostly on the sponsorships of various companies.

Although the scores and yardages look simple to calculate from simply watching the television, it is a whole different story behind the scenes. A company that updates the scores, yardages, and more on an instant basis is known as ShotLink. The course reporters and I were able to take a tour inside of the ShotLink trailer that is basically the nervous system for all the live time stats for the PGA TOUR. In this trailer, all of the computers that help record the scores are housed. I also learned that hand-held devices are given to volunteers to help update the players’ scores in live time. The information from the hand-held devices is then sent back to the ShotLink trailer to be updated. At this point, the information is ready to be seen on television by many around the world.

Even though ShotLink looked complicated inside of the trailer, the television trailer was even more complicated. The particular trailer I was able to access was a European station known as Sky. This particular company is a major media station in Europe. As soon as I walked into the trailer, I was overwhelmed by the abundance of screens showing the different shots in the tournament. It was neat to watch how commercial breaks were handled because the golf cameras keep rolling while the tournament is being played. The Sky television station definitely has its hands full!

Aside from experiencing the “behind the scenes” of the PGA TOUR, the junior course reporters and I were able to take part in a press conference with Nick Watney. It was interesting to hear his answers to the media regarding his game. Today, he shot a 64 while still double-bogeying a hole. In the press conference, he talked about his mental game and perseverance on the course. Ultimately, this helped him to have a great first round. Although meeting important individuals who are a part of the PGA TOUR and understanding more of the media involved in the game of golf was amazing, it was neat to experience a press conference with a PGA TOUR player.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to participate in this course reporting program.

There was a lot more that went on, but those were some of the highlights…the rest of the tournament is going to be awesome!