PALM HARBOR, FLA. – Beth Bowens has been attending major golf tournaments for more than 30 years across the globe and appreciates the views of the course as much as she enjoys the sport itself.
On a Tuesday morning at Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course, the sun beats down on the players out early to their practice rounds in preparation for the weekend event.
The sprawling 7,340 yards, par 71 course showcases a rolling tree-lined terrain for attendees to explore.
“They (the courses) are beautiful,” said Bowens, as she walks besides the perfectly primped 10th hole. “The scenery is beautiful, and the weather is usually perfect,” she said.
Home to the PGA tournament for the past 17 years, the tour describes the course as a favourite amongst the players for its “no-nonsense demands.”
A group of devoted fans waited patiently by the practice greens on Tuesday in hopes their favourite players will take a moment to autograph golf balls.
Despite the smaller crowds in attendance for the tournaments practice rounds, Bowens pointed out the enthusiasm the patrons display for the golfers.
A respectful enthusiasm, that is.
For the avid fan like Dustin Collins, having the chance to meet any professional golfer is a reason to come back year after year.
For US $10 to park and free entry to watch the practice rounds, he loves that the players are friendly and understand that the fans and sponsors are what make these events possible.
Onlookers’ eyes bulge at the sight of Collins’ massive collection of signed golf balls, attained over the course of just four hours. He hopes to display them alongside his collection of signed Chicago Cubs baseballs.
Not everyone has their hopes realized.
Peter and Carol Dawkins won a trip to the Valspar Championship and travelled from Britain to see their favourite golfer, fellow Brit Rory McIlroy, compete.
“If he’d have been here it would have been something to cheer about,” said Peter with disappointment.
Mclroy sustained a rib injury in January, and after competing at the WGC- Mexico Championship this past weekend, decided to take the Valspar tournament off to rest.