Out and About: Rickie's caps, cooling benches and more

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May 08, 2012
Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM

Out and About will highlight some of the unique non-competition events and stories taking place this week at THE PLAYERS Championship. Whether it's one of the many interesting venues at TPC Sawgrass, or an unique fan, we'll get Out and About each day.

FOWLER GEAR GOING FAST

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PGA TOUR Merchandise and Retail Manager Patrick Velasquez says he ordered eight boxes of the Puma "Rickie Fowler" caps and they're going fast.

"I expect them to sell out," Velasquez said. "As long as he's in the top 20, we will probably sell about 250 to 300 hats. If he doesn't make the cut, we might have a few left, but I don't think that will be the case this week."

The suprising thing to Velasquez is the wide-range in age of the "Rickie" followers.

"We'll have anyone from the 4-year-old little boy with the cap hanging over their ears to the 80-year-old grandpas," he said. "Girls wear them too. Definitely the hottest item on the shelf right now"

Some will buy the caps just to try to chase down an autograph for Fowler, while others won't take it off their heads.


While Fowler himself is partial to orange, each of the nine color varieties seems to be equally as popular among the fans.

FEEL LIKE A BIG SHOT

Patrons were out come rain or shine Tuesday, some hoping for the chance to get a close-up view of their favorite PGA TOUR golfer, and others to soak up the what many are calling a new and improved fan experience off the course at THE PLAYERS.

Last year, the chatter among the fans was about "The Grove," a shaded area behind No. 16 and 17 accented with pavers, and tabled-seating where patrons could eat, drink and be merry. That area has even been enhanced since last year.

This year, fans have their choice to do the same as they are greeted between the walk from the 18th tee to No. 9 fairway with "The Oasis" and "Wine and Dine on 9" -- two likely popular stopping points that give anyone in the public a benefactor-type feeling.

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At the Oasis, fans will get the normal open-air concession and seating, but added is an enclosed, air-conditioned Nolet's Silver Lounge for fans of 21 and above , featuring big-screen televisions, and a wide range of spirits for purchase.

Tuesday, with brief periods of rain, the stop was wildly popular, whether it was for those who were thirsty or the business person looking to knock out a little work on the iPad or laptop.

"There hasn't been anything like this before at THE PLAYERS," noted Whitney Dose, an account manager at Peter Jacobsen Sports. "I've been here all day. This really provides a hospitality-like field for somebody holding a ground ticket."

Just across the fairway behind No. 7 and facing the No. 9 fairway, local restauranteur Matthew Medure provides many of his popular gourmet dishes like tuna tacos and slow-braised organic shortrib, in an outdoor setting that resembles an outdoor Parisian café. With Beringer's wine selection on the premises, it's a delightful alternative to regular course dining options.

"This was our whole purpose out here today," said Ponte Vedra resident Laura Warwin, a 20-year veteran attendee of THE PLAYERS. "We wanted to check out all the new venues from last year. Our first stop at the Wine and Dine is absolutely beautiful. We'll definitely be back here during the tournament."


Echoing the same thoughts was Sheila Murphy, who has seen almost every PLAYERS since the 1970s. "This year may be the best that I can see for the fans to experience," she said. "Every year, it seems to get much better. We usually get clubhouse tickets for the week and get indoor bathrooms. Now, it's becoming less and less necessary to do that."

COOL IT

To help keep fans cool this week, the PLAYERS tournament staff borrowed an idea from the local NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars -- cooled benches to beat the heat.

These are used to cool the football players," PLAYERS Executive Director Matt Rapp said. "Believe me, they cool you very quickly. We think they're going to be very popular."

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The benches are scattered around the course for fans, with one placed on the range practice range for players.

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