Stories & Features

Meet Your First Tee of North Florida Junior Course Reporters:

Keely Kelly                         Katie McCorkle

Jake Navin


Charlie Newell                   Stephanie Pulido

Tuesday May 6, 2014 "First Tee Tuesday" at  THE PLAYERS at TPC Sawgrass

Today, the First Tee of North Florida kids gathered at the Challenge Hole to listen to a speech by PWC Vice Chairman, Jay Henderson. Prior to that speech, though, I got the chance to ask him some questions regarding the company's relationship with The First Tee. He explained to me that the reason PWC has sponsored The First Tee is because the values between the two organizations are very consistent. I walked up to First Tee alumni, Kenneth Patterson, to inquire about his chosen profession. He is the "relationship maker" for TaylorMade and basically that means he is a representative for everything. After the speech was over, I received the chance to talk to the two Pros who attended the meeting, Jonathan Bird and Daniel Summerhays. When Jonathan was asked what his favorite things about playing golf was, he responded by saying, "I love making putts, chipping in, playing in front of crowds, in crazy weather, and playing late on Saturday's and Sunday's." When Daniel was asked the same question, he answered with, "I love hitting a shot as the sun sets while playing with either my dad or my brother." Also Daniel added, "It puts my mind at ease knowing that The First Tee exists and is making the future of golf and our country a better place." I cannot wait to see what new things I will learn about different people tomorrow as I continue my course reporting!

-Keely Kelly

Today was the beginning of the practice rounds at the PLAYERS Championship and the First Tee PWC Challenge Hole event. Kids from the First Tee of North Florida came out in large numbers for the event. Every participant received either a red or blue hat when they checked in, and they were then separated by their colors during the first part of the event. All the First Tee of North Florida participants were then lined up on the deck, and were very anxious to get inside in the air conditioning. They even started a fun chant "let us in, let us in!" The first part of this event was an indoor discussion hosted by executives of PWC. Once seated inside, Rich Lerner from the Golf Channel introduced the speakers and shared why he loved the game of golf. He said that he considered golf the "greatest game because you can play it for your entire lifetime." The first speaker was Chelsea Killette, a senior in high school who has been involved in the First Tee since 2003. Then Daniel Summerhays and Jonathan Byrd (two professional golfers at the tournament) shared the reasons why they love golf and the First Tee as well. The main thing that everyone kept coming back to was the importance of the nine core values, and what a great impact they will have on your life.

I was also able to interview several people individually. Jay Henderson said that his favorite core value was integrity because "it will help you succeed, and without it you cannot." Kenneth Patterson, a former scholarship recipient was also at the event. He is now a representative for Taylormade who takes care of players on the tour. He shared that Dustin Johnson's favorite meal is Chick-fil-a. I also asked Daniel Summerhays and Jonathan Byrd what initially sparked their interest in golf. Daniel has been playing since he was a little kid, but it was his wife who urged him to play professionaly. Jonathan said that it was family competition that caused him to pursue the sport.

After the indoor event the kids with the red hats went out to the 17th hole replica to try to hit their ball on the green and raise money for the First Tee of North Florida. While this was going on, the blue hats stayed indoors for a lesson on finances. They then switched places. The kids got their picture taken with the two golf professionals, and initially raised $5,000. Then Jay Henderson took several swings and the total was raised to $15,000. After this the kids got ice cream to celebrate. This was a great event for the First Tee, and judging from the great attitudes of all the kids, the future of golf looks extremely bright!

-Katie McCorkle

Wednesday May 7, 2014 Practice Rounds at THE PLAYERS at TPCSAWGRASS


Today was a practice round at TPC and the excitement is definitely building.  Many of the players could be found on the range or on the course getting themselves familiar with the holes.  New this year and a big topic of discussion is the three hole playoff.  When asked about how they felt, certain players were quick to give their opinions.  Adam Scott stated that he thinks “The new three hole playoff is good for the tournament, it adds an extra element that is unique to this tournament.”  Following along the same lines, Matt Kuchar said, “The new playoff format is a great thing for the tournament.” Matt Kuchar also called #18, “one of the hardest holes on the tour.”  He also said that this is a special place to him and stated that, “all aspects of your game are tested.”  Jordan Speith was also spotted on the driving range and said that he is looking to win his first time here…

All parts of this tournament have grown over the past few years.  When speaking with Helen Ross, one of the PGA Tour media writers, she made sure to point out that the website has grown from three to thirty workers throughout the years, and that there have been over 1000 media credentials given out this year alone…the most there has ever been.

Clearly there is more interest this year than ever before.  The TPC offers something for everyone. The atmosphere is exciting even before the tournament starts, and for those that don’t follow golf, there is still much more to do and see.   A kids zone is available with mini golf, and there are lots of contests and prizes to win such as ipads, and new putters.  If you enjoy good food and concerts, well the TPC had that too.  Local restaurants set up booths to serve hungry spectators and at night there is a party atmosphere with live music.

All in all, the TPC is a great event for everyone.  If the practice round is any indication of how great this week will be, I suggest everyone makes it out by Sunday.

-Jake Navin



Adam Scott,

  • What is your reaction to almost being #1 in the world?
    • Adam Scott replied by saying that he used to precive winning the wrong way when he was younger but, when he lost, he didn’t take the wrong message away
  • What is the atmosphere at the 17th hole like?
    • He said ( and I quote) “ the atmosphere is rowdy, especially during the weekend"
Jason Dufner,
  • How do you feel about the First Tee program?
    • He likes the first tee program because it gets young people into golf and not only teaches them golf skills, it also teaches them life skills
Tom Roy, NBC Producer,
  • As a Junior course reporter I got the chance to get a tour of the NBC TV trucks
    • About Tom Roy
      • He loves to play golf during his free time and his love of the sport makes his somewhat stressful, and demanding job more enjoyable.
      • His favorite hole at the TPC is hole 17, ora.k.a “the island”
      • In his opinion the most challenging and demanding hole is hole 18
    • About the trucks:
      • There are three trucks that each has a different job.
      • One is in charge of the live video feed, the second is for the graphics and little “pop ups” during the game on TV, and the third is for the audio feed for the game
    • About the new golf logo
      • In the new Olympics, golf is going to be played and tested to see if golf can be an international sport
      • The word “Golf” is written and said the same in every country. Before, people from other countries didn’t understand the significance of just a “G” with the NBC logo, so NBC changed it to say “Golf”
-Charlie Newell

“Follow the red brick road!” I was instructed at the entrance by the guards, as I began my course reporting journey at THE PLAYERS. The day was amazing with perfect weather and many memorable experiences. The first item on the agenda was to meet Helen Ross, PGA She works as a writer for the PGA Tour website, and gave us some insight in the behind the scenes world. Mrs. Ross explained her life as a young newspaper writer, until she was offered her current job for the PGA Tour. “I’m a writer. I used to work for the newspaper… newspapers are now struggling… I was lucky.” She also gave us details on when the website was first launched in January 1997. “It’s changed so much… I was the only writer… I was lucky to get this job a month before we launched the website.” Helen, along with many others, works hard to give us the information we need on the PGA Tour website.

            After we exited the Media Center, we went out to the range to see who was getting ready to begin their practice round for the day. We saw many familiar faces, including previous PLAYERS tournament winners, KJ Choi, Jason Dufner, and many other tour players. Fellow course reporter, Keely Kelly questions Jason Dufner about his thoughts on the First Tee. He replies, “The First Tee is great, I’m happy to have young people get involved.”

            Later on, we hitched a ride on golf carts and head out to the back parking lot with the NBC vans. This was very interesting and eye-opening to see the behind the scenes of film-editing, audio, and the whole TV production. I asked NBC Producer, Tom Roy, about his thoughts on golf entering the summer Olympics for 2016. He informed me that the golf portion of the Olympics will be live, but dependent on the public vote. If it is not very desired by the public after the 2016 summer Olympics, it will no longer be shown in the next summer Olympics to come. However, this will be the chance to show the world, and if it is approved, it will become a permanent part of the summer Olympics.

            Soon after, we attended the press conferences of Adam Scott, and Matt Kuchar. Personally, this was very exciting for me to witness, since I normally observe them on television. Adam informed us of his purpose of being here, and his overall thoughts. “The purpose of coming here is to win tournaments, winning THE PLAYERS means more to me than sitting at home… My record in the US Open isn’t that stellar, and I would like to change that.” Since Tiger Woods is not attending the tournament this year, Adam informs us that he may have a greater chance of victory; however, he doesn’t see it as a wide open opportunity. “Thank you, no further questions… Enter Matt Kuchar” As Mr. Kuchar began, he spoke of his love of this unique, and special course that is home to THE PLAYERS. He also speaks of his greater use of driver off the tee than most PGA Tour professionals. Matt made a comment that I personally find interesting and very true: “The game of golf is a challenging game. You can wake up one morning and wonder what happened.” This particular quote by Matt Kuchar particularly sticks out to me because I feel this is very true among players, including that of myself.

            It was time for lunch. We enjoyed delicious turkey, healthy wraps, barbeque pork, and much more. After the food settled, we head over to the Taylormade trucks, and received a tour of the van with all the latest new clubs, and a tour of “The Vault” in the Taylor Made Performance Lab, where player’s swings are analyzed.

            Overall, it was a fun-filled day meeting new people and expanding my knowledge on the game of golf, and behind the scenes of THE PLAYERS. I look forward to what tomorrow has in store for me. 

Thank you, 

   Stephanie Pulido

Bright eyed and bushy tailed at 7 o'clock in the morning, I started off my eventful day by eating breakfast at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort. Immediately after that we headed out to the First Tee Challenge Hole at TPC. There I got to meet and talk to Matt Borocz the Assistant General Manager/Director of Golf. His job, in summary, is to make sure everything is running smoothly from merchandise, golf shops and dining, to the comfort of volunteers, players, and their families.


Next, I stopped by the Driving Range on my way to the Media Center and got to briefly talk to Jason Duffner, the PGA Pro. I asked him what he thought of The First Tee along with its impact, and his answer was, "The First Tee is a great organization and I am so happy to see young players getting involved in the game of golf."


My next stop was the Media Center where I ran into Helen Ross, Chief of Correspondents for the PGATOUR.COM website. She told me now that newspapers are struggling it was a good time to start the so fans can keep up with scores and what all went on during the days of the tournament. "We aren't here 24/7 but it sure does feel like it," she said when asked how much time is put into her job on a day to day basis.


I then ventured over to the NBC trailers where all the TV magic happens. I had the opportunity to take a tour led by NBC producer, Tommy Roy. He showed me around the video and audio offices and explained to me that there are 48 cameras on the course that they have to keep track of at all times. That's amazing!


Finally, my last stop was the conference room where I had the privilege to sit in on Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar being interviewed. What an awesome experience! One quote that Matt Kuchar said was, "Had I not won Hilton Head, my mentality would not be any different, it's just nice to win occasionally." This is an excellent example that shows his personality best, to persevere and that no matter what happens, to hold your head high and be proud of the player you are.


I had an amazing experience at the Players and I can't wait to hopefully do it again next year!

-Keely Kelly


Thursday May 8, 2014 Round 1 at THE PLAYERS at TPCSAWGRASS

The final day of my TPC Sawgrass course reporting at THE PLAYERS adventure had begun. The day began with a delicious breakfast in the Media Center. We had a large assortment of yummy fruits, desserts, and more. But this was just the beginning of an amazing day.

After we satisfied our taste buds, we head out to the fifteenth hole to observe a few groups participating in the tournament. We saw many players, such as Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jason Dufner, Luke Donald, Sergio Garcia, and many more familiar faces.

Soon after, we knocked on the door to the SHOTLINKS truck. The staff was very personable, and explained to us what they did, and how they do it. Matthew Toenjes of SHOTLINKS gave us the inside scoop. “On average, we have 300 volunteers a day help us with our very own laser operators.” These particular laser operators give us club selection (Driver, Iron, Wedges), and the distance left to the pin. They achieve this with signals from the operator that are sent to the van and are put on television for the viewers to enjoy. So next time you watch golf on TV, just know that the SHOTLINKS crew is behind all of it, and personally thank the volunteers for spending their time to give us this watching advantage.

Later on, we patiently waited for Tim Finchem, PGA Tour commissioner, to arrive at the Clubhouse. I had a few questions of my own to ask him. I questioned what in his opinion makes THE PLAYERS such an attractive event for golf’s most elite players. He replied back, “There are three important things that make THE PLAYERS such an attractive event. The first thing is the golf course, the second thing is that this tournament holds some of the world’s best players, the third thing is the history of past champions. There could even be a fourth one too. This would be the financial impact that the tournament brings, such as raising millions of dollars.” He then explained the significance of each of the key points. He then said, “It’s a very challenging golf course. You pay a price for making mistakes on this course.” Mr. Finchem has made the PGA Tour what it is today, and if it were not for him, I would not be writing this blog, nor had such a life-changing experience such as this one.

We also had the honor of meeting Stewart Williams, PGA TOUR Meteorologist. Mr. Williams has a very important job. It is his job to spot any unusual weather patterns, and get the golfers notified and off the course at these professional tournaments. Safety is key when lightning is approaching in this case. I also learned something very interesting form this meeting. On days there is a heavy face wind, the tees boxes are pushed forward so it doesn’t affect club selection very dramatically, and tournament staff push the tee boxes back when there is a heavy wind flowing with them. He comments that they stay busy all year round and work an average of 80-100 hours a week at each tournament. However, according to Stewart Williams, “weather at THE PLAYERS hasn’t been too exciting because of the perfect conditions” this year.

All in all, I am thoroughly pleased with my entire course reporting adventure. I have met many new people, been opened up to the behind the scenes world of golf, and been given a huge life-changing experience I will never forget. I would like to thank The First Tee, The First Tee of North Florida, the PGA Tour, and THE PLAYERS Championship for this amazing opportunity.

Thank you,