Practice round brings pure joy to golf fans

Palmer Invitational practice round allows an up-close look at players

Rory McIlroy chipping during the Arnold Palmer invitational practice round. PGA practice rounds allow an up-close look at players. (Photo by Ian Finlayson) 

BAY HILL, Fla. — At the finish of the ninth hole, a group of autograph seekers awaited Rory McIlroy.  

It is mid-day during the Arnold Palmer Invitational practice round at Bay Hill golf course and one man looked particularly anxious as he waived his hat over the rope.  

Then with a quick stroke of a marker, local retiree Tim Schrock got what he was looking for, as he walked away he smiled with glee and had a bounce in his step. 

“Well, it’s special, that’s what I can say, you know its special,” he said, asked what the autograph means to him. “Gives me something to brag about when I play with my partners, so that’s pretty cool.” 

McIlroy signing autographs after finishing practice on the ninth hole. (Photo by Ian Finlayson)

Tuesday during tournament weeks is a haven for fans looking to get up close and personal with their favourite golfers.  

The crowds are far sparser than when the event begins on Thursday and the atmosphere is more casual, and that’s why Schrock likes to come at this time.  

“I’ve taken lots of videos today of them shooting different shots. I’ve gotten Rory quite a bit, I’ve gotten JT and Rory. I’m having a good time,” he said.  

Walking past the ninth hole alongside the practice area, there is a designated children’s autograph area sectioned off. Parents look on from behind a short white fence.  

“Ben An (An Byeong-hun) actually gave him an eight-iron last year and signed it for him,” said Brendan Piatt, about his son. “I’ve never seen anybody give a club away but he came over and was like, here you go kid.” 

Piatt is caddying in the Pro-Am tomorrow for the second consecutive year.  

“He couldn’t even believe it,” said Dad.  

The intimate setting provided by the practice rounds makes moments like these possible. 

“It’s nice because you get to see the guys a little more relaxed, interacting with their fans,” said Brad Lowings, owner of apparel brand Boo Yaa Golf “Obviously during Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday they’re so focused that they don’t get a chance to do that, so it’s nice.” 

Lowings said that the company has doubled sales in the last two months. However, he did not allow the unique networking opportunity to get in the way of him getting some signatures.  

“I got Wyndham Clark, Jordan Speith, Max Homa, and Collin Morikawa,” he said “It’s a decent collection.” 

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Posted: Mar 6 2024 6:29 pm
Filed under: Golf Sports