The Best Part of PGA Golf You Won’t See on TV

Tiger Woods Clubs
Tiger Woods shares a laugh with his caddie before teeing off in Round 3 of the Bridgestone Invitational.

I’ve been fortunate to attend a few PGA events in my lifetime. I covered the Masters for three years when I worked in Augusta, Georgia. Heck, I even got to play the course. I also covered the Memorial at Muirfield Village Golf Club near Columbus for a couple of years. After attending the final Bridgestone Invitational over the weekend at Firestone Country Club in Akron, I finally figured out what makes attending PGA golf events so special. In fact, it’s the best part of PGA golf today and you won’t see it on TV.

It’s not easy to watch a PGA event in person. It’s usually hot, courses are spread out, and you will have to do a lot of walking. You have to come up with a game plan. Some people like to pick a hole, sit on one tee box or green, and watch the players come and go all day. Others start at the driving range, wait for their favorite player to warm up, and then follow him all day. The toughest tactic to employ at a PGA golf event is to bounce around the course, but it’s also the most rewarding.

PGA Golf Experience is Unique

That’s what I did and this weekend and how I came to find the best part of PGA golf today.  The big rivalries are gone, Tiger is no longer Tiger, and even the biggest names on the PGA tour aren’t rolling off the tongue of the casual fan. But I’m telling you the best part of PGA golf today is being there. The experience is so unique for a couple of reasons.

First of all, there is no professional sport where you can get so close to the greatest players in the world while they’re competing. I stood about 10 feet from Tiger Woods as he unloaded this drive on hole 9.

It’s unreal. To hear the ball come off the tee and sizzle through the air and travel as far as the holes I typically play (sorry Bob O’ Links). It’s something to see.

The guys are so close at any given time, on any given hole, you can offer words of encouragement like you’re playing along with them. They acknowledge you as you acknowledge them. It makes for a unique experience.

But what I think is truly the best part of PGA golf today is how the greatest players in the world treat the kids. It’s really fun to watch.

The Best Part of PGA Golf Today

After Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson gets the biggest roars from the crowd. He has the second biggest gallery following him around the course. The picture below is Phil, giving a golf ball to a little girl who near the rope on the 7th green.

PGA Golf
PGA golf pro Phil Mickelson hands a ball to a young fan while leaving the 7th green at Firestone Country Club during the 3rd round of the Bridgestone Invitational.

 

He just finished putting, but he’s not mad. He’s talking to them. He stopped to talk to them. They just stuck out their hands to give him “five.”

He asked “Who did I give a ball to already?” After the girls responded, he said “OK, I will get another for you later.” It was awesome. The second most-popular player on the PGA Tour, in the middle of a round, making sure he takes care of his young fans. But the best part of PGA golf today is that Phil is not alone.

Won’t Find This on PGA Golf Leaderboard

How about PGA golfer Jhonattan Vegas? He was a big story a couple of weeks ago when arrived 45 minutes before his tee time at The Open Championship at Carnoustie because of a Visa problem. Or you may have seen Vegas win a car with a hole-in-one last year at the Honda Open (video below).

But I took a picture of Vegas on Saturday. He’s not playing. He was on his way to the clubhouse, and went out of his way to hand a ball to a little boy. The little guy didn’t even see him coming, his Mom was busy addressing his sister, and Vegas could have easily walked right on by, but he didn’t. It’s the best part of PGA golf. Mom and big sister look thrilled.

PGA golf
Jhonattan Vegas hands his golf ball to a young fan after finishing third-round-play at the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

PGA Golf is Entertaining On and Off The Course

You don’t necessarily have to come away with a gift either. I also caught Kodai Ichihara of Japan smacking hands with fans as he headed to the clubhouse. It was a refreshing site to see professional athletes, in the heat of battle, not only not forgetting the fans, but seeking them out an making an already great experience even better.

PGA golf
Kodai Ichihara takes a moment to acknowledge fans as he heads to the clubhouse at Firestone Country Club after completing his third round at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Attend a PGA Golf Event If You Can

Sports is supposed to be fun. And that’s what every PGA golf event provides-fun.

If you ever have the chance to get to a PGA golf event, try to go. Put on your walking shoes, enjoy the beauty of the course, and don’t be afraid to throw out a “nice shot” to your favorite player as he walks by. You’ll never know what might happen next.

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