Players Championship: How a $1 Purchase Led to a Historic $20 Million Prize at TPC Sawgrass

TPC Sawgrass is one of the most famous and most recognizable stops on the PGA Tour every year. The famed island green on the 17th hole, danger lurking at every turn, and the grandiose clubhouse are just a few of the factors that make The Players Championship the iconic event it’s been for decades.

But did you know the famous land nestled in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida was originally purchased by the PGA Tour for a single dollar?

TPC Sawgrass: The birth of stadium golf

The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass.
The 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass during The Players Championship | Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Stadium courses are all over the PGA Tour today, but the concept was born during the construction of TPC Sawgrass. The idea originated from the mind of former PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman, who set out to create a one-of-a-kind golf course that would serve as the permanent host of the prestigious Players Championship.

Beman’s goal was to build a host course that concentrated on providing spectators with the optimal viewing experience while challenging the best players in the world. Hence, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass was born.

“There were two elements that I thought were extremely important in making a stadium course as successful as it could be,” Beman said in a YouTube video posted by The Fried Egg. “One is that you did all you could to build the spectator areas in the highest places on the course and the playing surfaces on the lowest ones so that the spectators were actually walking with you, and they would be above the players, and so more people could see. And that’s the concept of a stadium. The second part of the concept that I thought was very important was the routing of the golf course should be in a way that produced the most, what I call ‘areas of activity.’ Instead of spreading the golf course out and stringing the holes out, they should wind back and forth in a way that created hubs of activity where a spectator could walk maybe two or three hundred yards and see four or five different shots and not have to walk five miles to watch a lot of golf.”

The vision was there, but Beman needed the perfect piece of land in order to execute it first.

TPC Sawgrass was originally purchased for $1

According to the official website of TPC Sawgrass, Beman originally wanted to purchase Sawgrass Country Club and transform the golf course into the host of The Players. But the Arvida Corporation, the owner of Sawgrass Country Club, refused to sell.

Beman was dead-set on Ponte Vedra Beach as the host town, so he approached local landowners Jerome and Paul Fletcher about purchasing a 415-acre piece of forest and swamp down the road. The Fletchers immediately bought into Beman’s vision, and they sold the area of land to the PGA Tour for just $1.

$1!

Beman later pegged famed golf course architect Pete Dye to be the mastermind behind TPC Sawgrass, and he created a brilliant test of golf that incorporated the commissioner’s ideas of a stadium course. Players have to be able to work the ball both ways off the tee, hit precise approach shots over water, and navigate the swirling winds for 18 holes.

The par-3 17th hole is the signature feature of this masterpiece, but it was actually Dye’s wife, Alice, who came up with the idea for an island green. Now, it’s possibly the most famous hole in all of golf.

From $1 to a $20 million Players Championship purse

After Beman and Dye finished up construction, TPC Sawgrass made its Players Championship debut in 1982. The Stadium Course has served as the host of the event ever since.

As the PGA Tour’s flagship event, The Players has grown to become the most lucrative tournament on the schedule. The purse for 2022 is set at a record-setting $20 million, and the winner will take home a whopping $3.6 million. It’s the first time in PGA Tour history a winner will bank at least $3 million.

Beman’s $1 purchase is possibly the single greatest investment in PGA Tour history.

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