Episode 2 - TPC Sawgrass

Secret Golf's Steve Elkington visits TPC Sawgrass where he won 2 PLAYERS Championships that catapulted his career on the PGA Tour.


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NARRATOR: On this episode of Secret Golf Elk returns to the sight of not just one, but two titles, and is pleasantly surprised to find he isn't alone in his stroll down memory lane.

-Aaron Levine was my standard bearer in 1991 Players Championship.

NARRATOR: Six years later Elk would etch his name into the Player's history again.

-It was an important part of my life. The two wins that I had here were very significant.

NARRATOR: Join us as we take a journey into the life of a 10 time PGA Tour champion. And learn how winning one of golf's most prized tournaments changed his life. Secret Golf is rolling your way.

[HORN HONKING]

-Fore.

[THEME MUSIC]

It's Secret Golf. It's what I'm looking for. It's why I get up every morning for a good time with friends. Keeps me coming back for more. It's Secret Golf. We're headin' down the road. We just loaded up the big show, goin' looking for the heart and soul. We're rollin' till the wheels fall off. It's Secret Golf. Shh. It's a secret.

NARRATOR: Nestled along the coast in the Northeast region of the Sunshine State is the birthplace of the Tournament Players Club Network and its flagship layout TPC Sawgrass. Considered diabolical at times, each year this Pete Dye design plays host to one of the golf world's most significant events, The Player's Championship.

-There's no doubt by anyone's imagination that this is the best field, because all the top players play.

NARRATOR: In 1991 Elk played, and he won. Six years later, he returned as a major champion, and walloped a field comprised of the world's top 50 ranked players, assembled for the first time in one event. So when the man from Wagga Wagga had the chance to return to some old stomping grounds, he wasted no time. Watch out Jacksonville. Elk is back.

-Streets were lined-- you know, balloon. No.

[LAUGHTER]

I did, in fact, take a little run down on Beach Road in a 63 Comet convertible with my clubs in the back.

NARRATOR: A stroll down memory lane, however, wasn't just for Elk. In 1991 a humble, starstruck boy from Jacksonville had the final round standard bearing honors for Elkington. And on one special morning, the pair was together again.

-How'd that feel?

-Terrible. That was not a good one.

-People are going to be amazed to hear, we are here at TPC Sawgrass. Mate, you look so different since the last time we were here together.

-20 something years will do that.

-Aaron Levine was my standard bearer in 1991 Player's Championship.

NARRATOR: When Elk took top honors in 1991, he was arguably an underdog. With the domination in 1997, his second crown in town spoke volumes to one of only six multiple Players Champions. It was an important part of my life. The two wins that I had here were very significant, particularly 1991, because it set me up on the tour so well.

-That catapulted his career, because he knew he could do it he had to. He knew when he went to a certain venue that he could win there.

-This guy just put himself on a plain that very few ever get to. He is part of the permanent golf lexicon, because of what he did there.

NARRATOR: Because he keeps emotions close to his heart, it is rare Elk reminisce about his time in the winner's circle.

-Elkington.

-I have never heard him speak about his actual on course tour accomplishments. You know, he's not somebody that wants to sit there and tell you about what he's done, unless it's a funny story.

-You should just let your game do the talking. I just never really-- I'm not one to talk about all that too much. Never really-- never really got into all that. It's personal, Jackie Burk says. I'm going with that.

NARRATOR: Over two decades ago, a young man from Jacksonville Beach, Florida landed the opportunity of a lifetime. In 1991 I was a standard bearer for Steve Elkington in the final round of the Players Championship.

NARRATOR: Did this young man realize the significance of the day's events?

-I remember that towards of the end of the round, realizing that he was probably going to win this thing.

-He was my standard bearer 24 years ago. I just thought that was cool. I've never met another winning standard bearer I don't think. Aaron was only 13 when we were playing, so I know my son's 18, and he would have had the thrill of his life at 18 to be carrying the winning group. But at 13, that was pretty cool. And then I think it was cool that he said he took that with him to school, he had it in his room, and it was a great thing.

-I appreciate it a lot more now than I did back then. I think it's incredible. I have a much greater appreciation for golf these days. It's just you, and the clubs, and the ball, and the course. No excuses. But you get out there, and you just kind of do it. And you don't have to be a pro to love the game, and to try and perfect it, and get better. There's not a lot of games like that, you know.

-The great advantage that you have-- you're such a good sized guy. You've got-- you can use this big arc.

-Got it.

-You know? We don't want to be narrow. We want to-- let's get-- let's wind it up. I mean that's the fun part about golf is to be able to really wind something up, I think.

-OK.

-You always want to feel like you're going to deliver the club under-- from under your chin, under that way. We don't want it out.

-Got it.

-We want it underneath. I always felt-- I always felt like that right shoulder would go right under my chin there. Anyone looking at you swing you can tell that you've got a good swing.

-To have him say some nice stuff like that about my swing is definitely some validation for a lot of time that I put in years ago.

-It's not going to be cool by the way if I get taken down by a sign boy today on the--

-Sign boy?

[LAUGHTER]

Sign boy?

-Sign boy.

-I grew up on this course, OK. OK. I put a lot of work into my game. And I know I have a lot more to do. That's the cool thing about golf is that you can always improve.

-How're you feeling? A little worried about playing me in the match? No? You don't look worried. Aww. Come on. That's perfect. Let's go. Let's go play. Let's go. Let's go beat somebody bullet. I'm ready.

NARRATOR: March 1991. Notorious TPC Sawgrass. At the time, only the second career win for Steve Elkington, and just the beginning of many great moments.

-We started out playing with Jack Nicklaus. We were paired with the first two rounds, which was-- to be with the best ever was pretty exciting. So on the first tee, when they gave all his credits, it took 10 minutes before we teed off. Next on the tee, with the Greater Greensboro Championship--

[LAUGHTER]

-From the year before.

-I wasn't a fan favorite, but that's OK, because Jack Nicklaus was playing. Tom Watson was playing. Fuzzy, Azinger, Greg Norman, Tom Kite, Ben Crenshaw, Curtis Strange. I mean, I was just a little guy.

NARRATOR: The 28-year-old, relatively unknown, began Sunday three groups back. At the final hole, Elk would stamp his name in golf lore. Payne Stewart was the only one I think out of the top 50 players in the world that was not playing and he was commentating. He was injured. He was looking at the lie, and he was shaking his head. I could hear him saying, wow, that's a really bad break. There's not, there's not another divot within a mile here.

[HORN]

-Just as he got over the shot, a big osprey come over the water on 18 here. And came up with a large mouth bass in his talons, and came right over our heads shaking like this, and there was water coming down the fairway. You could see it. It was like an omen.

-Crushed it. Pshew. Low, shot, right at the flag. Couldn't believe it when I looked up.

-Five minute span, it was just like incredible what happened. It was just-- gone from coulda made bogey, or double bogey, and he makes birdie, and wins the tournament.

-Jackie Burke, he was in my head. I'd always built my thinking around him, where he's helped me to be tough. It's not enough just to hit that shot. You got, you got to be really tough. You got to make this putt. Just block everything out. It set me up so well for the tour.

My wife and my family, you know that 10 year deal was so, so sweet. And it gave me the confidence, because, you know, it's hard to walk onto the golf course thinking you're going to beat all the guys if you've never beaten them. I had one chance to grab it at the end, and I did. And I was so glad I did.

OK. So what do you think? You just--

-I'm going to play a pull. That's my go to shot. I'm going to--

-Play a pull.

-I'm going to play a pull.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

-Tell you what, you did it.

-I'mma play it straight.

-Well, you can do that.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Nice shot.

-See the best shot would be to go that way, but I-- I'm not feeling it today yet.

-I played a pull. I think it was a little bit further left than, than I had planned. But, you know, mission accomplished.

-Anything special you do in pine needles? Do you need a tip? Or you're good?

-I need a tee.

-Not a tip, a tee.

[LAUGHTER]

-What do you do?

-I try to stay still.

-Still? OK.

-Because the tendency is going to be, you know, slip out, right.

-I try not to think too much. Well, not much any, but I try not to think too much when I'm playing golf.

-Oh, pretty. Good shot.

-Thank you.

-These guys, they come out, they just try, and they try so hard. They just want, they want blood from me. They really do. They'd, they'd take any-- they'd take my clubs if I'd play him for it. You've seen this tournament so much. I mean, nobody does that. I'm going-- yeah. I'm going to try to put it over there on the left front.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

That's nice.

-Nice shot.

-You feeling a little queasy after that? You all right?

[LAUGHTER]

You've got a bit lucky there out of the trees. I like the lie.

-Thank you.

-You're thinking birdie. You're hear. You're in the tournament. You're right here. There's-- it's all packed there. That's all people waiting to see you hit this nice little lie over there to the right there.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Nice. Nice. Oh, you know the bounce and everything.

[LAUGHTER]

-I'm trying to put, not in the water, obviously. And let the-- hopefully let it roll down, you know if I can do what I wanted to do. And I think I hit it pretty close to where I wanted to.

-Okay, Aaron. Pretty bad break to be here, but I got this shot.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Hey, that was all right.

-Nice shot.

-What'd you think? No-- not talking? You quit talking.

-Nice shot. I still got a chance here though.

-Huh?

-I still got a chance to roll this in.

-Oh yeah. Oh Yeah. You got it. Let's knock one in here for me. Oh. That was close. I'll give you that. That's a par.

-You'll give it to me?

-Yeah, I'll give you that.

-Missed it on the, uh, amateur side.

-On the amateur side.

-Ah.

-See I know this putt should be just straight. Side door.

NARRATOR: The walk from the 16th green, to one of golf's most famous tee shots is somewhat of a Green Mile in its own right.

-Coming off this green in the tournament, you know there's all people here, everywhere. I came around this corner here, sort of the amount of the enormity of the event was starting to hit me, you know. And I missed my step here a little bit, but I went, I went, I caught myself. But it-- it was legit wobbly.

-Wow.

-I was-- my leg.

-You, you were that nervous?

-Yeah. Hell yeah. The thing about this win that was so important-- it was 10 years job security.

-Right. Right. Huge.

-That's the big deal.

-Right.

-They can't kick me off for 10 years.

-Nice.

[LAUGHTER]

And that-- so all the things that could have been playing in your head--

-All that.

-All of the things, that was what was going through your head is 10 years.

-I wanted the 10.

-OK. Not the-- not the purse money, not the prestige of the tournament?

-I wanted the purse money too.

-Right. But the--

-The 10. The 10 years.

-Because--

-I get it.

-Yeah, because each year--

-Because you have a down year--

-Down year--

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

I got to go back to the school.

-Yeah.

-If I win I got 10 years.

So what do we got Bullet?

-130, and the pins on approximately 20. 150.

-That's a 150 yard shot. I got a little eight. What do you got?

-Same thing.

-You got an eight?

-Little eight-- yeah, a little. I'm aiming left, left center, and I'm just gonna not think.

-OK. It's left center, no think.

-Left center.

-Got it.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Oh. Aaron. Mate.

[LAUGHTER]

[HIGH FIVE SOUND]

-Woo.

-You're a happy camper right now.

[LAUGHTER]

-That was flush too.

-Wahoo.

When people talk about how they can have a horrible round of golf, but there's that one shot that brings them back. Yeah, I hit, I hit an eight iron-- one of the best I think I've ever hit, under that pressure. Put it right on the green.

-You could tell how happy he was after he hit it. I mean, he was so-- emotion came out, right. Oh. It was-- he said it was the best shot he's ever hit in his life.

I'm gonna do the same as you. I'm gonna-- I'm gonna aim, but I'm gonna think.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Oh, what about an ace today. Could it be? Oh. It's just a shot that just has to be hit so well.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

-Short.

-OK.

-It was a lot slower than I thought. It was a left to right, uphill.

-OK. Aaron, I hate to do this to you mate. But, you know, competition's competition.

-Oh.

-Nah, look at that.

-Slow. Pressure's on, huh.

-I mean you can't knock it on the green, and then not make 3.

-No. Gotta make three.

-Gotta make three.

-Pushed it.

[PERSON EXHALING]

-It's OK. OK. Come on. Let's go to the last hole.

-Three putt. I didn't seal the deal.

-A lot of guys don't realize this, but I play a fade from here, I'm gotta go out across the water.

-Yeah. All right.

-So I would come over here, for me, phew-- Play a lite, slight fade there. It's very important which side of the tee you tee off. Did you know that?

-No, I did not.

-You do now.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Look at that.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

-Aw, nice shot.

-I just play a little fade out there.

-Nice shot.

-Thank you.

-You're afraid of pulling it left into the water, and then if you bail too far to the right, you're going to have a really long approach shot. So there's no let up there.

-So here we. We've got it on the right side of the fairway. We're both in-- you know we both did what we had to do. We stayed away from that. That's not easy. That doesn't look easy to me.

-No.

-You?

-No.

-Because you don't want to go over there in those hills.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Aw. Aaron. Beauty mate. Absolute beautiful shot.

-Thank you.

[HAND CLAPPING]

Unbelievable. I think I hit one-- another one of the best shots that I've ever hit, 3 iron two something, right inside of the green.

-Hey, I got my ball. My ball was right here. But you and I-- you want to come over here. Look, we've got this one-- there's not a divot on the whole golf course. But here's one divot-- that we're going to recreate the shot that I hit in 90, 1991.

-Steve hit a sweet drive down the right hand side and happened to be about five feet away from the famous divot shot. So we moved-- he moved it into that divot. Unbelievable. Not a lot of divots out here today, but there was actually a divot right there.

-Bullet, we got similar yardage here, right. 208 or something. I am, are we going to try to hit a three-iron again?

-That's it.

-Okay, here we go. What I'm trying to do here is-- oh I, you know, I can't exactly remember what I was doing. But I'm, I'm trying to make sure that I stay so steady on it that I want to make sure I get that ball first.

-No ground. No ground. No-- if I hit one particle fat it could go anywhere.

-Wow.

-So I'm-- I'm going try to pick that ball.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

-Wow.

-Hey, that was all right too.

-Yeah, that was nice.

-Right next to yours up there. So, you know, that day I caught it just right, and it went up the green, and ran right up to, to the back of the deal.

-It sounded like you caught that clean.

-I did. I caught it, I caught it, I couldn't have hit it better. We recreated today and it was-- it was pretty scary shot today, let alone in, in the tournament. So we've already hit two good shots on this hole. We still not quite got our four yet.

-Wow.

-But that's-- is that a gimme for four?

-That's a gimme.

-C'mon Bullet, let's have a triple read here. I think it's like in here somewhere. I think it's going to go down, and just keep going down, straight down there.

-It'll funnel right to the hole.

-OK.

-Maybe right in there somewhere?

-Yeah.

-OK.

[CLUB STRIKING BALL]

Come on baby. Please do it. Please. Wow, went back the end.

-Turned back a little bit. I was hoping to sink that birdie. I think I rolled it pretty good. I think we all read it to, to break a little bit left, and it actually turned right. So I was happy with it, you know.

-Good work.

-All right, Aaron.

-Thanks. Down two strokes to a pro.

NARRATOR: When Steve Elkington decimated the world's top 50 ranked players to claim his second Players Championship by a record seven shots in 1997, he impressively posted all four rounds in the 60s. Elk was in the zone.

-'97 was the best golf that I ever played on the Tour, bar none. I had every shot. I could make it curve three feet left or right, either way. And I led the tournament from day one. Everyone said, aw, good round Elk, 66. Great playin, you know. Next day, I'm still in the lead. Everyone-- you know the cut was made. Guys were leaving.

I shoot 68 again on Saturday. Now there's no one speaking to me. No one's even looking at me. Like I've been leading the whole week. You know it's a lot of hours in the locker room, and there's like, there's Elk, stay away from him. He's, you know, like a guy pitching a no hitter, you know. I was definitely in the zone there. And right then, I just said, you know what, I'm going to let this game run off and just see what it wants to do.

Johnny Miller was saying, well, he's really playing fast. I think he's playing too fast. Huh? You know, I'm not playing too fast. I just knew what-- you know, I just had the rhythm, and that was my shot. He must not-- he's not trying. He's not thinking. He's what? No, I was good. I was good. I was just seeing it, and doing it. So I've always said to my son, I said, if there's only one thing better than leading wire to wire, and that'd be shooting the low round of the day on Sunday.

So Bull, it was good that we found Aaron. We got him inside the ropes today, and gave him the real feel. When he walked over from 16 to 17, he looked over. Yeah, he's like, oh yeah, this is the real deal now.

-It's hard to put into perspective what it's like to play with a professional like that, until you actually do it. I mean you have an appreciation for their swing and the shots they hit, but today I got a little bit of a glimpse of what it's like to have some of that pressure.

-Pushed it. It's OK. It's OK. I just thought that was cool today, to have him back.

-It's unbelievable, what these guys do, experience of a lifetime.

-I wonder in 25 years from now if they're gonna-- if the guy who wins this year, he's going to come back and sit on this hill. Like that'll be in what? That'll be in like 2040?

-2040.

-Do you think the player and the Caddy will be sitting there?

-I hope so for the good of the game.

-Yeah.

NARRATOR: On another other episode of Secret Golf we head to the Big Easy, America's melting pot of charm, uniqueness, and mystery. But we found a secret side to this city that most haven't discovered.

-The story that's going to come out of Katrina-- all the golf courses are getting rebuilt. We're going to become a great golf town.

-There's a fair amount of architecture not everyone's aware that went on down here. There's some tremendous secret courses down here.

NARRATOR: Get a glimpse into an historical place with unusual ties to the golf world.

-Joe Bartholomew is a name who was the first African-American golf course designer who built a course down here. He worked under Seth Raynor. Raynor helped route Cypress Point and worked with Macdonald when they did the National. That's just something that's not been kicked around to often.

NARRATOR: And Elk has a smack down with some new friends and the man he calls. Mr. Fleur-de-lis.

-Say it again.

-Fleur-de-lis.

-Fleur-de-lis.

[LAUGHTER]

-Fleur-de-lis. You're in New Orleans baby.

NARRATOR: Secret Golf with Steve Elkington has been a presentation of Secret Golf Incorporated.

Shh. It's a secret.