Seagull GolfTales RJSmiley

Seagull At TPC Sawgrass

Anything can happen at TPC Sawgrass. Especially at #17 - the island green.

Next spring all true golfers will be watching The Player’s Championship.  The best players in the world will attempt to bring the Pete Dye monster known as The TPC Sawgrass to its knees.  When PGA commissioner, Dean Beaman, contracted Pete Due to build “The Toughest Golf Course In The World,” their dream was to have an annual golf tournament where the PGA Tour would be the primary beneficiary.   Their dream has come true.  The Players Championship annually draws the strongest field, of any full field golf tournament, in the world.  Each year a hand full of players who have their game in top form – and their mind under control – will rise above the talented field to win the so called, “Fifth Major.”

Every golfer in the field knows, that Dye designed TPC Sawgrass so that any hole on the course can end their vision, to stand-alone on the 72nd hole a champion.  TPC Sawgrass in a minefield ready to destroy a round or the tournament with a careless shot.  TPC Sawgrass has been called “unfair.” Even good shots sometimes go unrewarded or end in tragedy.  Each year we, golf fans, watch the unscripted comedy unfold for four days as Dye plays tricks with the minds and the scorecards of golf’s greatest players.

No hole in golf, with the exception of # 12 at Augusta National, is more feared or more photographed than #17 at TPC Sawgrass.  The island green becomes the focus.  Miss the green – water.  Hit the shot again…again, again and again.  Over the years many amateur players have emptied their bag and never found land. 

During the 1998 Players Championship, Steve Lowery a journeyman golfer who had earned his invitation to the prestigious event through a year of better than average results, had a run in with a seagull.  Steve had hit a perfect shot to the “island.”  As he bent down to retrieve his tee, Steve heard a gasp from the huge gallery that surrounded the #17 of the Stadium Course.  A seagull spotted Steve’s ball and swooped down to retrieve it.  Thinking it might be a meal, the seagull, whose eyes were bigger than its stomach, attempted several times to fly off with the white egg-like object.  Each time the baffled bird attempted a takeoff the ball slipped from its sharp beak.  As the gull moved the ball around the green, a growing buzz was heard from the spectators, “Does he get to put it back?  What if the gull knocks it in the hole?  What happens if the ball goes in the water?”

THEN IT HAPPENED, the gull got air born with the ball in its beak.  Once again, the ball slipped out of the bird’s beak into the water.  

Lowery smiled, he knew the rule, but the crowd went wild with speculation.  Under Rule 18-1, Lowery was allowed to replace the ball and return it to its original position on the green without penalty.  Steve made a less than routine two-putt par.  The seagull continued its search for food! 

At the time the PGA Tour enforces the one-ball rule (Appendix I, part C).  Lowery could have been disqualified if he hadn’t had another of the same brand and type of ball.  He did.      

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