I’ve been to several PGA golf tournaments, as a writer and a fan, but the past Saturday that I spent at The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass was the one that will always be remembered.
I took my 10-year-old grandson Jacob, a student at Myrtle Beach Elementary School.
It was his first tournament and neither of us knew what to expect. He had come with me on golf outings several times and even played some par 3 holes with his own clubs. But I wasn’t sure if he’d get bored watching the pros.
I should not have worried. Jacob can get excited about most anything in life.
We got to the course early, hours before the leaders would tee off, and headed for the first tee to plan the day.
When I saw that Dustin Johnson and Billy Horschel were playing together, I said we should follow them.
They are a couple of free spirits and, more importantly I told Jacob, Dustin was from Myrtle Beach and attended the same school his mother did, Coastal Carolina University.
Jacob liked the plan and laid out a strategy.
“I’ll run ahead and get a good spot,” he said. “You just look for a kid in a red shirt. Then I’ll run to the green and save you a spot there.”
They teed off and he was gone.
We watched the second shots, then their putts.
Jacob ran to the second tee and was there when Dustin tossed his TaylorMade golf ball at Jacob’s feet (his bare feet, I might add – I carried his flip-flops in my back pack the whole day).
He looked at the ball for several seconds, then picked it up, beaming.
“I thought he dropped it,” he said.
I mentioned that if he gets a chance, he should tell Dustin he’s from Myrtle Beach.
The boy listens well. Two holes later, as Johnson walked from the third green to the fourth tee box, Jacob pulled alongside him and they chatted. I only heard Dustin say, “Really? Cool.”
What was that about, I asked.
“I said thanks for the ball, then told him I was from Myrtle Beach, too,” Jacob said.
We followed the pair for about eight holes, before heading to No. 17, where we actually watched history made: Angel Cabrera put his tee shot to the celebrated island green in the water – the only water ball of the day and a record for this tournament.
Eventually, Jacob decided he wanted Dustin to sign his ball. I warned that he probably would not sign a golf ball, but maybe he would initial it, DJ, since that was his nickname on the tour.
The two of us waited outside the scorer’s room while Johnson finished his round. And just before he went in, he walked over to Jacob and, without a word, handed him his glove. It was signed “Dustin Johnson.”
Jacob just stared at it, his eyes as big as I’ve ever seen them.
Later, he would tell me that it was one of the best days of his life.
“I got to talk to a famous person – and he talked to me,” he said, putting the huge, sweaty glove on his hand one more time.
Contact BOB BESTLER at email@example.com.