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.
QUITE THE COLLECTION
Ian Poulter may be the clubhouse leader with an opening 7-under 65 at THE PLAYERS Championship, but Statesboro, Ga. high school senior Kyler Aubrey was the big winner Thursday at TPC Sawgrass.
In addition, Jonathan Byrd, after holing out for eagle on the par-5 9th hole, came over and gave Kyler the ball.
Kyler and his father Josh Aubrey came out early to the course and stayed late into the afternoon rounds. By day's end, his collection of golf balls had grown to 15.
This year marks the eighth year that father and son have made the three-hour trek to The PLAYERS. As dad admits, "It's close to a tie between Phil and Tiger as to Kyler's favorite," but perhaps this visit to TPC Sawgrass is already the most memorable.
BIKE, NOT DRIVE, TO THE COURSE
Once again, the PGA TOUR and MS Society have teamed up to provide bike parking services at the main Stadium Course entrance and the Nicklaus Gate entrance.
Volunteers Bruce Reid and Linda Bushong-Reid have seen an increase in the amount of interest in the program since last year.
"I think the word is getting out," said Reid. "For a $5 donation to the MS Society, we park the bikes and secure them all day. I think it's a great situation for the PGA TOUR as well because they will hopefully eliminate a few cars in the parking lots."
The program was started with the idea to encourage people in the Jacksonville beaches area to pedal to THE PLAYERS rather than bike. The PGA TOUR is title sponsor for "Cycles to the Shore" race from Jacksonville to Daytona Beach and back, held in September. It's the largest fund-raising event in the MS Society.
SHOTLINK VOLUNTEERS AT THE 15TH
Bob and Denise Buonaiuto have volunteered at THE PLAYERS Championship and other golf tournaements around the country for seven years. Sitting tall in the SHOTLINK tower at No. 15 atTPC Sawgrass, they make a good team.
Thanks to modern technology, the geodimeter -- the same equipment used by surveyors to measure land -- records longitude and latitudes on each hole and is calibrated to know where every pin pacement is. The hand-held device that is synchronized with the geodimeter even tells you what color clothes the golfers are wearing. Denise operates the geodimeter and locates the ball through the finder lens, then zaps it for a distance reading.
If that fails, Bob has a manual grid of the hole with measurement blocks that he logs.
He remembers a couple of years ago on No. 4 at THE PLAYERS when one player, after a poor shot, took out his frustration on the SHOTLINK post by smashing it and knocking the system out for a short period before it could be restored.
All systems were running smoothly on their first day of this year's PLAYERS. If problems come up, they've got each other's back.
FREE STUFF AT THE PLAYERS
Do you like something for nothing? There's plenty of it to go around at THE PLAYERS. Wristbands, ball markers, sun screen, T-shirts, cups, energy bars, pedometers are only a few of the "freebies" that are being handed out all over the course by various vendors.
On Mother's Day, moms even have a chance at winning a car -- as THE PLAYERS will celebrate "Championship Sunday" with a drawing in which the winner gets a 2012 Toyota Camry Hybrid (the lucky mom must be present to win). Entry forms are located in the Stadium Village.
Next to the car giveaway, Nature Valley field marketing coordinator Robert Vojnovski says that 60,000 energy bars might be handed out before THE PLAYERS is complete. Vojnovski travels 30 weeks a year on the PGA TOUR for Nature Valley, promoting their products.
A few feet away is Charles Schwab's display that will provide free video analysis of your golf swing by a PGA teaching professional.
Step over to the Humana display and receive a free pedometer. Each person can monitor and record their steps by signing onto a website. Humana is donating $1 for every 50 steps walked with a goal of 5 million steps by the time Sunday's final round concludes. Each 2,000 steps is about one mile.
By mid-morning Thursday, in just a couple of hours, one serious walker had already logged 14 miles.
Venture over to the Verizon Lounge in Stadium Village and enjoy the convenience of free phone and internet use, and phone charging for all models. Fans can show up and register for daily prizes. Fans received complimentary ball markers and sun screen when they walked in on Thursday, part of Wolfson Children's Hospital way to say thanks for the $1 million gift from THE PLAYERS to establish THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health.
Also at the entrance, another popular item is the PwC fold-up course map that looks like a credit card.
Find one of the many Ponte Vedra High School "Social Media" volunteers on the course and you may receive a free cap, T-shirt, or cup. Of course, their primary goal is to build interest in PLAYERS social media sites, but greet you bearing gifts. Don't be shy about asking what's in the bag.
FIND A GOOD SEAT ... AND KEEP IT
Patrons may stay in their seats on No. 18 at this year's and may not want to get up all day. And for good reason!
The more than 250 folding chairs set out to start the day belong to those still sitting when the last putt is dropped at day's end.
The idea came to THE PLAYERS last year when the seats were an alternative for the removed bleachers.
Each day, the specially-designated area of "The Bluff" behind the 18th green is restocked with the chairs, a tasteful PLAYERS with the tournament logo and year on the back.
Get there early each day! For those not arriving early, find an open seat and it's "finders keepers."