Out and About: Armies of volunteers and Kuchar's win ... at tennis

May 12, 2012
Michael Curet, PGATOUR.COM

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.


Not even sleeping on a share of the clubhouse lead at THE PLAYERS Championship was going to keep Matt Kuchar from his tennis match on Saturday morning at a local Ponte Vedra Beach country club.

Kuchar and his regular doubles partner, wife Sybi, squared off against their fathers.


The husband-wife team made quick work of the doubles duo of dads by a score of 6-1, 6-1.

After showering and having lunch, Kuchar arrived early at TPC Sawgrass for his 2:24 p.m. tee time. All smiles and totally relaxed when he stepped onto the range, Kuchar was still excited about his morning result on the tennis court.

"I really feel good with where my tennis game is right now," Kuchar said. "We went out this morning and it was great. Sybi and I really played well today and did a lot of good things. We both served pretty well and our game seems to be getting better and better."

Kuchar was ranked fifth in the state as a Florida junior tennis player, but stopped playing just before his 13th birthday to concentrate on golf. Sybi was a standout collegiate player at Georgia Tech, where the couple first met while Kuchar was on the golf team.


When David Toms fan Gary Landrum and his son arrived on the course Saturday at the Hal Sutton gate, with Landrum donning an LSU cap, belt buckle and golf shirt, it was just in time to watch the fellow Tiger play the par-3 eighth hole.

Landrum, a former resident of Toms' hometown of Shreveport, La., has never met his favorite player. However, after receiving a touching personal letter back from Toms after Landrum made a donation to Toms' foundation, he became a big fan.

Now that his son Tim (a former high school golf teammate of Bubba Watson), lives in Jacksonville, Landrum tries to attend THE PLAYERS every year -- 2012 marking his 19th visit to TPC Sawgrass.


There are more than 80 turf management students from colleges all over the country working THE PLAYERS this week, and they have about a four-hour window in their 16-hour day to take breaks. That's when you'll find them roaming the course in royal blue shirts and khaki pants -- trying to catch up with their favorite PGA TOUR players before heading back to work.


The students return to the job in the late afternoon for detailed backpack mowing, cutting and rolling of greens, and high watering of the fairways.

"It's what we do when we arrive at 5 p.m.," said Matt Cozart, a student at the University of Minnesota. "We're getting valuable experience unlike anything else. This course is beautiful -- the best scenery and most well-kept golf course I've ever seen."

The students arrived last weekend and were immediately put to work by TPC Sawgrass Superintendent Tom Vlach.

"He's a great guy and does a phenomenal job with this golf course," Mississippi State student Robert Glenn said. "It's all about perfection and course setup."


For kids age 10 to 13, working as a runner on the practice range is not a bad gig.

This year's group of practice range runners numbers about 25, working in six shifts and assuring that the players have enough tees, towels, and balls. But if you ask the fans, the most important role of a practice range runner is to make sure the name plate arrives when the golfer does.

That eliminates the guesswork for fans.


Arlin Lewis, assistant chairman of the runners and a 19-year veteran volunteer at THE PLAYERS, has been pleased with his 2012 group.

"They work hard -- all of them," said Lewis. "This is a great start for a kid to volunteer at THE PLAYERS. This year, they all want to get Rickie's sign -- especially the girls."

The signs are kept under a tent on the range in alphabetical order. "More often than not, we recognize the player," said Lewis. "Sometimes we struggle with the name and have to look for it on the golf bag. That's not always easy since it's often facing the opposite direction."

Lewis notes how different the personality of the range can be in the beginning of the week, versus the end. "It starts off slow on Monday, and gets crazy on Tuesday and Wednesday," he said. "That's because you have the player, caddie, manufacturer's rep, swing instructor and others that join the player on the range. It's a madhouse."

Also, Lewis observed how the tone changes.

"Everyone laughs and jokes early in the week," Lewis said. "Beginning Thursday morning, the talk is lower and lower. On Saturday and Sunday, it's quiet when they are on the range."

One runner, excited about his volunteer job, asked what other sport allows such close access to a great player. One volunteer answered "maybe the kids under the basket at basketball games who have to wipe up the sweat with a towel."

Another one laughed: "I'd rather be on the range!"


Former PLAYERS champion Tim Clark stopped during his walk from the seventh green to the eighth teebox to talk to physical therapist Craig Knight about his left shoulder. According to Knight, the shoulder "didn't feel quite right" to Clark, who consulted briefly with PGA TOUR Rules Official John Mutch before hitting his tee shot at No. 8.

Clark fired a 1-under 71 to stand at 4 under after three rounds.

Knight travels with Clark to select events on TOUR.


The U.S. Navy Mayport Sea Cadets comprise one of the five groups of volunteers in the ecology department at THE PLAYERS. Their main role is to keep the course clean.

This group of about 28 will work from dawn to around 8 p.m., filling about 100 bags per day of trash and 30 bins of recycling. When all five groups converge on the course late Sunday after the tournament, the course will be found spotless a couple of hours later.