The First Tee Junior Course Reporters: 2016 Shell Houston Open
Blogs from Wednesday, March 30 and Thursday, March 31
By: Stephen Boyd and Cline Sonnier
Stephen Boyd, 16 yrs
Ace level participant, DSC location
The first round of the 2016 Shell Houston Open is underway. There was a little rain this morning, but the sun is out and the fans are out too. During my time here at the Shell Houston Open, I realized that the PGA Tour is like an engine, composed of many parts that help the engine function at its full potential. The parts, are the men and women that work behind the scenes during each and every tournament out on the PGA Tour. These men and women make us fans see a perfectly smooth tournament, but in reality, without them operations would not run as smoothly. From the meteorologist to the Tournament Director, hours upon hours are put into running a PGA Tour tournament.
My day started out with Meteorologist Wade Stettner, he explained to us what he does week in and week out on the PGA Tour. Mr. Stettner uses multiple maps to track the weather around the area of the tournament. These maps can track rain severity, lighting strikes, and even wind direction. In case of an emergency, Mr. Stettner and a staff team can remove all players, caddies, and volunteers off of the golf course in 15 minutes. Mr. Stettner and his team can communicate with tournament directors to inform all patrons off of the course as soon as possible.
Second, we went to go talk to the transportation team. These gentlemen are in charge of picking up and dropping off players at the airport, as well as giving out courtesy cars to the players. The team explained to us that players are assigned certain cars based off of their performances in years past. The team also gave us a rundown of how the course of their week goes. They told us that Monday, Friday, and Sunday are most hectic. On Monday there are about 150 players coming in, their team is in charge of picking up players from the airport and taking them back to the club house, there the player can go to their hotel or living quarter. Friday and Sunday are also their busy days because players are leaving from Houston either heading to Augusta or elsewhere. Players have to return their keys before they departure from Houston and head to their next flight. The team also explained the system behind keeping track of the keys. Players must sign a waiver when they arrive to receive a courtesy car. Then the player is officially checked in on a sheet of paper with all of the cars listed.
Next, we headed to player services. There we met the illustrious Vikki Hale, she explained to us what player services does for each player here at the Shell Houston Open. We were able to see firsthand what Mrs. Hale relayed to us in our discussion. PGA Tour golfers, Retief Goosen and Lucas Glover came in and requested tickets for “will call”. There players are able to request tickets for family and friends during the tournament. Then Mrs. Hale took us around the club house to visit the medical room, family dining area, and the hospitality room. During our time spent with Mrs. Hale we were honored to meet Charlie Epps. Mr. Epps also known as “the golf doctor”, is known for his work with distinguished multi major champion in Angel Cabrera. Mr. Epps shared a story with us as well as giving us some fantastic golf advice.
Then we ventured towards the driving range where we stopped by the Professional Caddies tent. There we talked to John Heinemann, he told us about the procedure that caddies have to go through before and during the Shell Houston Open. Mr. Heinemann told us that caddies have to go to the Professional Caddy tent to check in and register for the week. There caddies can eat and fuel up before their round, as well as register for their caddy bibs.
Near the range we also bumped into Bob Devoe. He told us about all of the work he and his teams goes through during the week of the Shell Houston Open. Mr. Devoe and his team are in charge of roping all 18 holes here at the Golf Club of Houston. Mr. Devoe told us that he and his team put in 1,600 stakes, 16,000 feet of roping and countless hours of volunteering. Mr. Devoe explained to us that he and his team worked from the Monday before the Shell Houston Open all the way to the Monday of the Shell Houston Open. Mr. Devoe also told us about rat cameras, these cameras move along a rope and can capture video on each and every hole out here on the Tournament Course.
Lastly, we stopped by hole number one to catch up with some of the pros starting off their week. We ran into Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson, and Jordan Spieth, there we watched them play the first hole. It was such a cool experience to see the top players in the game up close and personal.
In conclusion, it was such an exciting experience to be able to be a junior course reporter. It was an honor to meet such amazing men and women. Without these men and women, the “engine” would not be able to run. I’d like to give a special thank you to all of the men and women I met during my time as a course reporter for donating time out of their busy days to talk to us and give us insight on how their days run. Thank you to all of the volunteers, the Shell Houston Open, and The First Tee of Greater Houston for giving the opportunity for such a life changing experience, one I’ll truly never forget.
Cline Sonnier, 16 yrs
Advanced Birdie level participant, Quail Valley location
My Last Day on course, was very special to me because it’s one that I will cherish forever. There was a little morning drizzle during the first part of the day, although the skies did end up clearing, and it became an appealing day. This day was filled excitement and also meaningful experience because of much the volunteers partake in hours taken out of there week, just to enjoy the Shell Houston Open.
I had the opportunity to meet Wade Stettner the PGA tour Meteorologist for the Shell Houston Open, who explained the importance of the weather forecast to anticipate the evacuation procedures of players, caddies, and spectators. He let us view his weathering maps to scope the area, and spectate the forecast for the rest of the week. Mr. Stettner also relayed his past weather stories about travelling from many different places. He is one person who makes difference for the PGA. Then I crossed on to meet the transportation crew who gave the run-down of how the players receive courtesy cars to travel from the golf course to specific places and return the cars and travel to the next tournament. Transportations is a team of people who make sure every player get’s a vehicle transport themselves. Secondly the crew determines which car will be handled to which player and their keys and drop-off of keys. Then when the keys, and cars are returned the Transport crew drive the cars to the pickup zone where the certain car dealer will retrieve the cars back to the dealership.
Furthermore, I travelled to the player services building to meet a very compassionate and tenured volunteer named Mrs. Vikki Hale who gave us a pristine review of how the players get accounted and checked, and if certain players want to attend distinct events and outings they’ll given the available schedule. As well she introduced to a man who goes by many names such as the Golf Doctor, Mr. Charlie Epps. Mr. Epps presented me with a few stories of his past, and a little bit of Golfing advice. Also Mrs. Hale showed the players hospitality such as the locker rooms’, physio rooms’, and the family dining room.
I then ventured to meet the professional caddie’s coordinator John Heinemann who explained how the caddie’s get serviced, and treated for PGA Tournaments. He closed the conversation with his experience with Shell Houston Open. Bob Devoe was another man we meet during the caddie tour, who proclaim his past roping journeys on tour. Also Mr. Devoe enumerated on the fact of how many hours the ropes squad spends on the development of the ropes, and tear down. These individuals take the time out of there week to volunteer for the Open. Also I explored the crafting of a Golf club, during my tour of the Mizuno Golf Truck. I was fortunate to take a look at shafts, club heads, and regular clubs. I have the Mizuno JPX iron’s so I was very ecstatic to see the clubs that I use. Especially knowing the process, it takes to make clubs.
I was so fortunate to actually interview Jordan Spieth who was very humble, kind, and gracious to answer my question. He responded very well, also Jordan gave the longest response which filled me with excitement. As well he signed my hat, and took a picture with me, what meant a lot because seeing your role model Is sometimes a one-time deal. Another individual that I acquainted, Mr. Phillip Tataurangi, he told me his experience about his 17 years in PGA tour and, his current job as PGA Tour Live Commentator. He gave some tips about interviewing players, and being confident in my approach to ask players certain questions of the Tour that players proceed in. He gave me the special advice to not ask a question that you know the answer to, rather to ask meaningful ambitious question that will get the players to think about that certain question.
Finally, we were able to view Jordan Spieth’s first hole, and see him tee off. Hopefully he will come out a winner this year in the Shell Houston Open and boost his confidence to win the masters back to back. A truly remarkable experience that will be forever apart of my life as a golfer and a reporter.