The most notorious hole at TPC Sawgrass is the island green, par-3 17th. It’s been 40 years since he made his Players Championship debut.

In 1982, North Carolina was still the dominant professional franchise in college basketball; baseball legend Cal Ripken was about to play his first full 162-game season with the Baltimore Orioles; and the Players Championship has moved to a wild and dramatic new course born from the swamps, TPC Sawgrass.

We’ve seen many memorable finishes at The Players over the past 40 years. Tiger Woods, pick one; Hal Sutton and “Be the raht club tew-day!”; Craig (We Barely Knew Ya) Perks and his sensational appearances; Rickie Fowler’s playoff rocks; Fred Couples, twice; Paul Goydos loses in the playoffs to Sergio Garcia; Len Mattiace’s unlucky heartbreak on the par-3 17th hole; Fuzzy Zoeller’s white towel that symbolically chilled Greg Norman after a sizzling 24-under-par performance. And more.

No one could top that first edition of The Players in 1982. It had it all, starting with a big winner – Jerry Pate, as talented as anyone in golf for a few years. It was brilliant in color – Pate won The Players with an orange Wilson ball. (Wayne Levi beat Pate in the history books by being the first to win a PGA Tour event with an orange ball earlier in 1982 when he won the Hawaii Open.)

It had a shocking finale. In an unforgettable and not-fully-staged prank, Pate pushed the PGA Tour commissioner and course designer into the lake at age 18 and dove into himself. Who could ask for more, sir, besides that hungry little Oliver from the Broadway musical? Sawgrass’ early days were great theater and even better television.

As we head into another visit to Sawgrass, here are some player notes from 1982, or as it was then called, the Players of the Tournament Tournament:

Ground control to Major Deane

Dan Jenkins, the best sportswriter of the 20th century and also one of its great traditionalists behind that hilarious and sarcastic front, declared The Players Championship major after its very first edition at Sawgrass. Here is part of his first paragraph of Sports Illustrated then:

“If Pete Dye is the Leonardo of golf course architects, Jerry Pate is surely the Esther Williams of tourism professionals, and the two joined forces last week to make the Tournament Players Championship one of the premier events in the world. golf.Call it the game’s fifth major if you will…but the fact is, the player with the best swing and most potential in the game today, Jerome K. Pate, came out and Ben Hoganed the lights of day. out of the toughest new layout in the world today, winning TPC against the toughest field you could have put together today. And if all that doesn’t make TPC a major championship, then Jerry Pate, Tour commissioner Deane Beman and Dye can’t swim once.

The dashboard : It’s hard to believe the late Jenkins’ enthusiasm because if anyone else wrote this, I can hear them (in my head) saying something like, “If Hogan didn’t win it, this is not a major.”

The name game

Many have tried, but none have managed to score one of TPC Sawgrass’ signature holes with nicknames that have stuck. NBC and Dan Hicks attempted to impose “The Gauntlet” on viewers as the name of the final three holes, a suggestion said to have come from Beman himself.

Even a writing legend like Jenkins failed.

In this 1982 story, Jenkins tabbed the par-3 17th hole “Fantasy Island” after a popular but cornball ABC show featuring Ricardo Montalban. That show ended in 1984, and Jenkins’ nickname didn’t even go that far. He also dubbed 18 “Beman’s Lagoon” in honor of the brilliant made-for-TV moment when Pate pushed Beman and Dye into the lake, then dove after them “so I could drown them,” Pate joked more late. OK, he was probably kidding.

Others have tried. The Bermuda Triangle. No. The swamp monster. No thanks. alligator alley. Nope. The Coliseum? Sorry, it’s already taken by TPC Scottsdale for its 16th par-3, the loudest and most unruly hole in golf. The Gauntlet is the only nickname that persists online, largely by default.

The dashboard : If the shoe doesn’t fit, you can’t pay. Or something like that. Not everything needs a nickname, Scooter. Let’s just enjoy one of the best finishing stretches in golf.

A back of genius

One more thing about Pate’s famous waterfall and its subsequent plunge. Did he really throw the game commissioner and course designer into the lake and then race dive after them without seriously investigating what was under the water? Kind of. Pate’s idea of ​​a security check was to ask Dye Friday during the tournament, already believing he was going to win, what was at the bottom of the lake at 18. “Because if I win, I’ll throw your ass in it,” Pat said. Dye replied that it was all just a sandy bottom in four or five feet of water.

When Sunday ended, Beman’s wife held his wallet and watch while Dye’s wife, Alice, held Pete’s wallet. “Pete doesn’t wear a watch,” Beman said at the time. “He never knows what time it is.”


Pate’s 2004 version of events had him call Beman and Dye at the water’s edge to report a design issue that needed to be fixed. Then he pushed Deane inside, grabbed Dye and threw him in.

Dye said in 2004: “Even when I saw Jerry throw Deane into the lake, I thought that was the end of it. Next thing I know I’m flying through the air like a jerk “It wasn’t like stepping into someone’s pool. There were stumps there! Luckily we didn’t pile anything up. Jerry dove in, probably the dumbest thing you could do. I can’t remember how many names I called him. When I was in the air I thought, ‘Nothing like this has ever happened in golf.’

Pate explained his security protocols. As a former competitive swimmer in his youth, he didn’t worry about the depth of lakes because he knew how to do a shallow racing dive that would barely break the surface of the water. That’s why he did a running dive instead of just jumping. “It looked better too,” Pate said.

Dye liked that he got a free pair of pants from the head pro so he could change clothes after his soak. Beman later contracted hepatitis. “He was floating on his back, spitting water like a fountain,” Dye said in 2004. “He said to me later, ‘You know, I got hepatitis from that lake.’ I said: Well, you shouldn’t have drunk the water.

The dashboard : The tournament moved on from The Dive, but this big splash put TPC Sawgrass and The Players Championship permanently on the map. Let’s face it, if Bruce Lietzke or Vance Heafner won that first, it wouldn’t have had the same impact.

CBS Sports earned an “A” for capturing the water sports on camera, and a nod for later cutting footage of an alligator swimming on the property but in a different pond, giving some viewers the idea that alligators are hiding nearby. Forgotten Pate Trivia: Pate’s dive was a callback to what he did the previous June when he ended a two-year winning drought by winning the Memphis Classic.

This quiz is 90% crappy and 10% stupid

The modern style of TPC Sawgrass by Dye, who coined the term “stadium golf,” has not gone down well with many traditionalists among PGA Tour players, especially those who haven’t been so successful. See if you can match the quotes said at the 1982 tournament with who said them:

A. “This course plays all around my game and never touches it. I’ve never been very good at stopping a five iron on the hood of a car.

Of them. “Where are the windmills and the animals?”

Three. “There is no mystery here. All you have to do is hit a perfect drive, a perfect second shot, and a perfect putt. What I’m still trying to find out is if you get a free game if you putt on the last hole.

Four: “Is it illegal to carry a bulldozer in your bag?”

Five: “This course is 90% horse manure and 10% luck.”

Speakers: A-Tom Watson. BJ.C. Snead. C-Jack Nicklaus. D-John Mahaffey. E-Fuzzy Zoeller.

The dashboard : The answers are 1-C, 2-E, 3-D, 4-A. 5-B. The course was difficult not only because of all the water hazards, but also because the wooded areas had thick underbrush and weren’t cleared like they are now. This led to rounds that took over five hours to play. Give player Ed Sneed bonus points for this line: “Pete Dye should be fined for slow play.”

show me the money

In 1982, Pate won $90,000 in top prize money from the $500,000 tournament purse. In 2022, the Players Championship winner will receive $3.6 million out of a $20 million purse.

Was “The Splash” really that important? Yes. The tournament purse jumped to $200,000 the following year and doubled to $1 million within five years of Pate’s victory. Coincidence? Not likely. In a case of “Leave it to Beman”, its price rose to $1.5 million in 1990 and $2.5 million in 1993.

The dashboard : The Players Championship took off in the wake of Pate. When asked then what he was going to do with his $90,000 after handling the diabolical and difficult course, Pate joked: “I’m going to give it to Pete (Dye) to help pay to redo some of the greens .”

Forty years later, the memories of the best players’ championship remain priceless.