PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- 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.
GARRIGUS CADDIE WINS AT 17TH
Caddies on the PGA TOUR will probably agree that they should "stick to their day jobs" after the results of Wednesday's annual "Caddie Contest" yielded almost half the balls getting wet.
Unless you're Robert Henley, Robert Garrigus' caddie, who stuck a wedge near the center flagstick to 3 feet, 7 inches to win the closest to the pin contest at the island-green 17th.
In one of the most-anticipated days of the year for the men on the bags, 46 out of 97 balls struck found the water. That led to some of the caddies, by late afternoon as the temperatures climbed a bit, attempting to throw the ball on the green from the tee box. Results weren't much better.
In a light-hearted moment, 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen joked that he'd be surprised if his caddie Wynand Stander hit the green on his turn at No. 17. Stander proved his boss wrong by landing it safely below the hole about 25 feet away. It was a far cry from Oosthuizen's best of the day inside 3 feet. Nevertheless, Stander has now played the hole three times and hit land twice.
"I get paid to pull the club, not hit it!" laughed Stander.
The annual caddie classic has been renamed the "Bruce Edwards Foundation Caddie Tournament", with pros, caddies and members of each entourage making donations as they step up to hit. Proceeds benefit the family of the deceased longtime caddie for Tom Watson, who died of Lou Gehrig's disease.
SOCIAL MEDIA CADDIES AT PLAYERS
For the first time at THE PLAYERS, Ponte Vedra High School students, like "roving reporters," are all around the course promoting fans to THE PLAYERS and the PGA TOUR on social media.
Draped in white bibs, the 40-plus high school seniors are handing out everything from ball markers, cups and T-shirts to lure fans into the social media network.
So far, it's working. "A lot of people are starting to recognize us as the week goes on," said Ponte Vedra High's Brandon Paynter. "They're telling us they want to be find us on FACEBOOK. They're looking for us on the course now."
The group visited the Patriots' Outpost Wednesday as one of their key stops, and also wrapped up the day with a question and answer session with Ben Crane that will go up on the site. Once the students gather information or photos, they return back to the Media Center, where it is loaded onto THE PLAYERS page.
PGA TOUR Director of Marketing Services Angela Ivey said, "These students are the eyes and ears for all our social media fans. They will be interacting with fans all week. We want fans to make comments all week."
WOUNDED WARRIOR GETS TPC BOSTON MEMBERSHIP
Michael McCombs, a wounded warrior who suffered spinal cord injuries in Iraq in 2003, was presented with an honorary membership Wednesday to TPC Boston by Commissioner Tim Finchem and PGA TOUR player Nick Watney at The Patriots' Outpost.
The PGA TOUR and the Wounded Warrior Project have awarded 21 honorary memberships to various TPC courses around the country after being founded six years ago. TPC Boston is the home of the PGA TOUR stop, Deutsche Bank Championship.
"Michael McCombs' dream was to one day teach the game of golf as a teaching professional," Finchem said. "It's still his dream and he will continue to pursue it. During the years following the injury, he's shown great perseverance and commitment. We want to help him along the way and give him the opportunity to play one of the great golf courses in the New England area."
McCombs had an extensive recovery period at Walter Reed Army Hospital and at Fort Drum. He still deals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and has battled alcoholism -- having been sober since 2007.
"Everyone comes back and says that the war is over," said McCombs, fighting back tears and pausing to collect his thoughts. "It isn't over for everyone. My wife and three kids have stood with me throughout. I'm living the dream. Golf has always been a passion of mine. Anything is possible and I thank the PGA TOUR and the Wounded Warrior Project for this."
From one professional golfer to a professional soldier, Watney with a hug and a handshake, turned over the membership cards to McCombs.
Four-star General and Chief of the National Guard Craig McKinley was also on hand for the ceremony. McKinley, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "The folks in the Pentagon are so deeply honored and pleased that the PGA TOUR would do something like this. Thank you for the honor of being here."
Other honorees included a group of disabled veterans that received laptops from another PGA TOUR partner, Dell Computers.
CRANE MEETS UP WITH FANS
Ben Crane's schedule has been jammed-pack this week, but you get the sense he was in his element as he chatted with fans and clowned around at THE PLAYERS Fan Meet-up at The Patio on The Stadium Course.
Crane signed a number of autographs before playing trivia with emcee/local sports broadcaster Dan Hicken and the crowd. Then he fielded questions from fans in attendance and for up to 100 fans connected on Facebook and Twitter. And, of course there were requests for a rendition of the Golf Boys hit song, "Oh Oh Oh," but Crane could not pull it off without his other band members -- Bubba Watson, Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler.
Topics in the question and answer session included everything from the golf boys to his chances this year at THE PLAYERS.
"This may be the best shape I've ever seen the golf course," said Crane. "It's the best golf tournament on the PGA TOUR. That simple. It's our championship."
He was asked about his love for Twitter.
"I started getting into social media when I heard how much Stewart Cink was into it," Crane joked. "It's fun and my family is into it too."
When approached by 5-year-old Joey Hannigan about his interest in golf, Crane stressed, "Dream big! And practice a lot. When you see someone working hard, you have to work harder."
COMMUNITY PEDS CARE
The PGA TOUR Wives Association and THE PLAYERS hosted the fourth annual event for Wolfson Children's Hospital and Community PedsCare children and families. This year, a Hawaiian theme came to the Stadium Village.
Kids and families were able to learn how to do the "hula dance" while the Jacksonville Zoo provided a visit from zoo animals for the more than 56 families that turned out. Clowns, face-painting and books were also available to the kids.
"This was the largest participation we've had," said chairperson Tabitha Furyk, wife of TOUR pro Jim Furyk. "We not only had a large turnout from the kids, but 28 PGA TOUR wives were here for the event.
Phil Mickelson's wife Amy, who has supported the program from the beginning, was thrilled to be back this year.
"I know what the kids are going through and some have really serious challenges ahead of them," she said. "But what really impressed me is the way that the families are dealing with these challenges. I had a chance to really talk to a couple of families in particular this year and that gave me a real perspective. Tabitha has done a great job and the support we get from all the wives is tremendous."
Terry Eason, Director of Community PEDS Care in Jacksonville indicated that the program is designed for children who have life-limiting, life-threatening conditions. "Some are able to have a life that is limited. Others live life to the fullest that they can."
BOY SCOUTS DAY
Blue and Yellow badges were widespread at THE PLAYERS, in celebration of "Boy Scouts Day" on Wednesday.
Scouting directors and volunteers worked three shifts with about 25 people to get the word out on how to find out more about the Boys Scouts.
Tim Forman, Development Director for North Florida Council of Boy Scouts of America said that he brought about 15,000 wristbands with business cards giving more information about the scouting in NE Florida.
Later in the day, scouts and their parents were invited to a special challenge at the Stadium Village 17th replica hole. The three closest shots to the pin received gift certificates.