How to best experience the Nashville Golf Open
Golf tournaments have long been a part of my life. From playing on the junior tour circuits as a youngster to hitting the links in college and eventually even traveling the country conducting tournaments for the American Junior Golf Association. If I were to count the number of days in my life spent at a golf course, it would easily total into years.
I remember playing in junior tournaments against Brandt Snedeker, being at college tournaments with future Tour players like Scott Stallings and Josh Teeter, and working AJGA tournaments that had me conducting some of the earliest interviews with the likes of Jordan Speith and Rickie Fowler.
Through those experiences, I developed not just an understanding of how much work my golf game needed but also an appreciation for seeing the many different sides of a golf tournament. A bonus was also watching many of today's PGA TOUR stars in the earliest stages of their career. While I no longer work in the golf industry (or play like I once could in college!), I still love the game, love being at a tournament, and love following along the young talent in the game.
When friends are headed to watch their first professional tournament, I often get asked what the interesting things they should look for are. What players should they keep an eye on for the future? There is so much more you experience in person, that what you see on television each weekend. So, since we're all friends now, here are the things and players I will be watching at this year's Web.com Tour Nashville Golf Open.
The driving range and practice green
The longtime slogan of the PGA TOUR is, "These Guys Are Good," and only a few moments at the range will show you just that. Settle in for a while and watch the process these guys go through to prepare for a round. The consistency of their ball striking, and ease at which they make the ball move exactly where they want it to quickly illustrates just how wide of a gap there is between the best weekend players in your foursome and the pros.
Walk the course
So many people make the mistake of getting to a course, immediately going to the final green and settling in for the day. While that's not entirely bad, you don't gain a real appreciation of the course and the nuances the players face on each hole until you have made an 18 hole lap. But when you go, don't just go with the flow.
Unless there is someone you are set on following for a full 18 holes, start at No. 18 then work your way backward. That way you get to see several different groups as you walk around and don't get caught behind just one group the entire round. As you do, take some time and camp out for a few groups on the back of a tee box. This will allow you to eavesdrop on a few player/caddy conversations, and truly understand the detail that gets discussed over each shot.
Get to know the field of players
The field this year at the Nashville Golf Open is the best it has ever been. Seven of the top 10 money winners on the Web.com Tour are in the field, along with 11 of the 12 winners on Tour so far this year. Many of these names you will be seeing on the PGA TOUR very soon, like last year's early leader Wesley Bryan who has already carded a PGA TOUR win this season. Especially in Web.com Tour events, there are always great mixes of up-and-coming talent along with players looking to reclaim their PGA TOUR card. It's also not just the players you should keep an eye on either, last year Tennessee Titans kicker Ryan Succop was on the bag for Bryan, and this year in a practice round Davis Love IV had his father, Ryder Cup captain and major champion Davis Love III carrying his bag.
Who to watch in the Nashville Golf Open
James Driscoll: He is the defending champion and looking to pick up his second consecutive Gibson Guitar trophy. He's cut the signature mohawk hairstyle he was rocking last year, but his long drive still makes him hard to miss on a tee box.
Casey Wittenberg: If you follow the US Amateur you may remember him from his heartbreaking loss in 2003, or his breakout performance in the 2004 Masters where he won the low amateur medal. After turning pro, he earned Web.com Tour Player of the Year honors in 2012
Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey: Tommy was twice on the Golf Channel's hit show The Big Break. He was eliminated from the competition show in 2005, but came back to win it in 2007, then became the first Big Break alum to a PGA TOUR card. He is easily recognizable, as his name would suggest because he always wears two golf gloves when he plays.
Johan Kok: For those looking for a great local connection, Johan is your guy! Kok is the General Manager of the Hideaway at Arrington, located just outside downtown Franklin. He is in the Nashville Golf Open field on a sponsor exemption, but he is no stranger to professional golf success. As a PGA Professional, he has qualified for three PGA Championships where he teed it up with the big boys of the PGA TOUR. During the PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Lousiville, Kok stole the show by sinking this 100-foot putt.
These are just a few of the things and people I will be watching at this year's Nashville Golf Open. What are you looking forward to most? Is there something we've missed you have to see? Let us know in the comments below.