Editor’s Note: After missing the cut at the Jacksonville Championship, Jorge Fernández Valdés and several players stayed around Northeast Florida for a couple of extra days so they could play one of the most-famous golf courses in the world. Fernández Valdés checks in each week as he plays the LOCALiQ Series in the United States, and this week’s installment is quite special as he played a practice round at TPC Sawgrass’ iconic PLAYERS Stadium Course.
ORLANDO, Florida—This past week was full of contrasts. After a few weeks off—a planned break in the schedule—we returned to play the LOCALiQ Series in Jacksonville, a city I particularly like to visit from time to time.
At the Jacksonville Championship, the fifth event of the Series, I didn’t have a good time. Hidden Hills Golf Club is a short golf course, where missing off the tee can give you a hard time because of its high rough where the ball is hidden. I was not solid in that aspect of the game, and I never found the rhythm to make the cut.
The only one from the Argentine band who managed to make the cut and play all three rounds was Leo Marelli. He not only played well but contended all three days and had a birdie putt on the 54th hole that had he made it would have gotten him into the three-man playoff. We were happy to see him play well this week, but those of us close to him know he has been playing well for a while. If he continues like this, he will surely be someone to watch in the remainder of the LOCALiQ Series before reaching the LOCALiQ Series Championship at Atlantis Bahamas.
As we did not make the cut last Friday in Jacksonville, we took advantage, with Andrés Gallegos and Peru’s Luis Fernando Barco, to play the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, the home of THE PLAYERS Championship each March. Normally, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica players can only play the Dye’s Valley Course.
Adrián González, manager of players Nelson Ledesma, Fabián Gómez and Julián Etulain, helped us with the arrangements to play there. We had a tee time for 2:30 p.m. As always, it is a pleasure like few others. This is the fourth time I have played the Stadium Course, and if I’m honest with you, I like it more and more each time.
As a young golfer, I had the opportunity to play The Junior PLAYERS there twice, competing alongside players Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Emiliano Grillo, now big PGA TOUR stars. In addition to playing with those guys, I remember that we challenged each other in ping-pong matches at the clubhouse. We had good times off the golf course. They are great people and provide memories that still make me smile.
It is a special course for us players. The par-3 17th hole is so famous and one I enjoy playing. I’ve always said that that hole, without water and in the middle of any other course would be an easy hole. However, those 132 yards ahead of you, with water everywhere, a bit of wind and the amount of people who are usually in the stands screaming and enjoying the action, is another story.