Since THE PLAYERS moved back to March five of years ago, it has become the custom that when the calendar changes to a new year it also signifies that talk surrounding THE PLAYERS begins to really heat up.
As a result, THE PLAYERS senior vice president and executive director Jared Rice was the guest speaker at a joint luncheon hosted by the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Ponte Vedra Beach Division and the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 11, as the tournament is less than two months away.
“One of the biggest things with the move from May to March that we’ve seen from our partners and noticed internally from a planning perspective is that there is certainly more activity during the summer and through the early part of the holidays,” Rice said. “But when you come back from the holidays, it is going through the checklist because you are out of the conceptual phase at that point.”
No matter what time of year it is, having everything organized and in place heading into the next event is always fresh on the minds of the THE PLAYERS staff.
“We start shipping in hospitality structures on Oct. 15,” Rice said. “We need to know our site plan by then.”
Making a move regardless of what it is in life can present a challenge and a natural transition that often takes place. However, Rice believes that after a handful of years since the switch was made, THE PLAYERS has fully adjusted and has found the sweet spot, scheduled this year for March 7-12.
“Moving everything a little bit earlier has taken a few cycles, but we’re certainly more accustomed to it now from a planning perspective,” Rice said. “As we speak to a more national audience and growing awareness of the event, being in the first quarter (of the calendar year) and the first major championship is really a positive.”
Another way in which Rice believes the tournament has become stronger is the adversity it has encountered the past couple of years with the 2020 championship being abruptly cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and then having condensed crowds for its return in 2021, only to have full-capacity crowds in 2022 only to have Mother Nature crash the party with historic amounts of rain and drastic temperature drops.
Through all that adversity THE PLAYERS crowned its past two champions and the tradition of being a marquee event on the calendar continued.
According to Rice, the variety of that adversity has made the championship rethink how it does certain things and the result is a more fine-tuned event that was done with both the betterment of players and fans in mind.
“There is no secret that we have faced a few challenges to say the least,” Rice said. “There’s not a lot of golf courses in the world that cannot take on six inches of rain in 36 hours and still play a major championship with the ball down. Although challenging, I think it turned out to be collectively our finest hour, and really made us aware of some things that we had never experienced before. I just loved to see the resiliency of all those involved.”
Rice has been working with THE PLAYERS since 2011 and has held the role of senior vice president and executive director since 2017.
“Seeing the growth has been awesome, and to have played a part in it is really energizing and inspiring, in that to get to this point, it has not been just one person or one thing,” Rice said. “To see our community engaged deeper through our volunteers and proud partners, and the PGA Tour and our entire ecosystem of golf push into that week, it paints a more thorough picture of how big the event has gotten over time.”
THE PLAYERS has been held in Ponte Vedra Beach since 1982, and because the town also served as the home of the PGA Tour, it was the dream of then PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman to build a golf course that would challenge every style of play and create an environment that did not favor certain golfers more than others.
That dream has become a reality and THE PLAYERS is now a worldwide event that is broadcast in 212 countries and in 27 languages.
“It is a great infomercial and showcase of our community that we take a lot of pride in,” Rice said.
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