Two golf legends take the stage together on JAGA awards night

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The Redcoats are a familiar sight at THE PLAYERS Championship every year. Given that nickname because of the red jackets they wear, the Tournament Chairmen, and Chairwomen, are volunteers who oversee the thousands of other volunteers who help make the championship the success it has become.

John Tucker was the first Redcoat. In 1965, he helped create and launch the Greater Jacksonville Open, which became the Tournament Players Championship and then THE PLAYERS.

Tucker also helped bring Deane Beman to Jacksonville, and the city has Beman to thank for putting it on the golf map.

Beman moved the Tournament Players Championship and the PGA TOUR headquarters to Jacksonville. Then as Commissioner of the PGA TOUR from 1974 to 1994, he led efforts to grow the tour, including establishing a successful television model, establishing a pension plans for players and starting the Senior Tour and the President’s Cup.

The Deane Beman Award was created in 2015 to recognize individuals who have had a significant, long-term impact on golf in the First Coast area.

And on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at the Jacksonville Area Golf Association awards dinner at TPC Clubhouse, John Tucker was recognized as this year’s Deane Beman Award winner.

During a special appearance together on stage, Beman and Tucker reminisced about the past.

Many awards were given out that night, including the Earl and Eleanor Kelly Long-Term Service award, North Florida PGA Awards and the Jacksonville Women’s Golf Association Award.

And then, seated next to each other in armchairs, Beman and Tucker spoke together in a talk moderated by Duke Butler.

“You two turned Mineral City into Ponte Vedra Beach,” Butler said, alluding to the fact that the upscale town now known as a golf headquarters was once a tiny backwater where minerals were mined off the beach.

“We wouldn’t have come here at all if John hadn’t stepped forward,” Beman said, nodding at Tucker. “We wouldn’t have had a tour here.”

Tucker spoke about how Jacksonville was much different in 1964, when as general manager of Florida Publishing Company, he and company President Robert Feagin — both avid golfers — worked to lure the PGA Tour to Jacksonville.

The first GJO in 1965 was played at Selva Marina Country Club. Then, working with others to convert the GJO to what eventually became THE PLAYERS, Tucker spearheaded a tournament that had hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and land available in Ponte Vedra Beach for $1.

Beman reminisced about how moving the tour to Ponte Vedra Beach was an offer that he couldn’t refuse.

Tucker pointed out that so many people offered to volunteer at the tournament every year, that “pretty soon, when Deane came down, the whole town supported us.”

“It’s because of the volunteers,” Beman said. “When I became commissioner, golf was a minor sport. In 1974, bowling had more events on television.”

“Look what this man has brought to Jacksonville,” Tucker said, pointing to Beman. “There are over $100 million in charity dollars in our community today. Deane, we think of the tournament as the gift that keeps on giving.”

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