My name is Paul Lewandowski. I am 17 years old and going to be a senior this fall at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin. I have been golfing since I was 12 years old and joined The First Tee in May of 2010. I played high school golf my sophomore and junior years. I have also participated in many events with The First Tee, most recently, the Calfee Cup in June. I am an Eagle participant and am working on certifying to the Ace level.
The last day at the World Golf Championships® - Bridgestone Invitational: filled with excitement with all the up close action
By Paul Lewandowski
Yet again, I was astounded with such an amazing experience today reporting on the first round of the World Golf Championships®-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. Before I begin about the first round, I want to follow up on Jack Nicklaus’ press conference yesterday evening. During the press conference, I got to listen to him talk a great deal about the positive vibe the players feel about the Presidents Cup® and Ryder Cup® ; as well as, how he felt about his recognition. Tim Finchem, PGA TOUR Commissioner joined Nicklaus in the press conference. Finchem announced that the 2015 Presidents Cup® would take place at the Jack Nicklaus Golf Club in Seoul, Korea. When Finchem was asked about the outlook of the Presidents Cup®, he responded in a very positive way, feeling that the competitiveness continues to grow between the Americans and the International teams. Jack chimed in as well saying that Americans seem to play better even though on paper they do not seem as skilled.
Then the conversation turned towards Jack’s experiences being captain and his play at Firestone Country Club. He talked about picking wildcards at the Presidents Cup®. Once again, he brought up how the tournament is all about striking enthusiasm in the players. With more enthusiasm, the event becomes more competitive and more enjoyable. He talked about the year when Phil Mickelson went 0-5, but was a critical asset to the team because of his attitude and encouragement to his teammates. Lastly, when asked how he felt about Firestone Country Club, he said, “So many things started for me at Firestone.” Nicklaus played his first tournament at Firestone Country Club, and it certainly seemed to be a memorable one for him. After the press conference, I got to do the coolest thing in the world; meeting and shaking hands with Jack Nicklaus. He is such a friendly guy. I asked him what he thought about the award, and he responded simply with, “It is a very nice award.” His wife Barbara received the award 23 years ago, and he said, “It only took them 23 years to get around to me.”
Today, I began by sitting down with Chris Reimer, Director of Communications for the PGA TOUR. For 12 years now, he has worked to set up media relations, bringing stories together, and connecting the players with the local community. In his words, he calls his group, “a traveling circus.” The circus includes his team; but also, the trucks, for example, that bring workout equipment for the players. For this reason, it is not hard to realize that he spends a lot of time away from home. This is the hardest part of the job for him; however, it is a dual edged sword. Traveling also becomes exciting with some great locations, especially those southern locations in the winter with beautiful courses. Chris has a journalism degree and takes pride in writing stories that are positive. Much of the media focuses on the controversial material and the negative stories, while Chris enjoys picking out all that is positive about the golfers and the communities. One of the last things Chris said was definitely the most intriguing. I learned today that the PGA TOUR is a non-profit organization. The TOUR has no owners as with other sports, so they pay for their operations and the rest is sent to charities. I never realized this! And even better, the TOUR has given more money to charity than every other professional sports organizations combined. They truly have a great organization running and the excitement in the employees attests to this. They do not even appear to be at work, just with how positive their demeanors are. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with Chris today.
Next, we made our way to the SHOTLink truck which was very cool. Given that I love statistics, my eyes just lit up. We met with Dallas Kirkendoll who is the SHOTLink coordinator. SHOTLink has a very intriguing system. This system has been used since 2002. They come in the Wednesday before the week of the tournament and set up a laser grid throughout the course. During the duration of the tournament, there are volunteers on every hole. They have a laser that they shoot at the ball on every shot which sends a GPS location to a super computer. The computer then processes the data and computes about 500 statistics for players, broadcasters, and even fans. The SHOTLink workers also run the digital boards on the course, displaying the leaderboard, statistics, and video feed. Their system is so technically advanced. Once again, Dallas said that the traveling was the hardest part, but getting a two month vacation in November and December is always a nice perk. Dallas gave us such good information, and it was great talking with him, learning about the SHOTLink system.
After a quick lunch break, we went to the scoring area. I watched a few interviews, including Webb Simpson, who is leading the tournament, and Tiger Woods spoke also. I stuck around until Jason Dufner finished his round. As he was walking out, I had a chance to ask him a few questions. He had just finished a 3 under 67 for the round. He was happy with how he played and said that the greens were soft with the rain making them receptive and scoreable. His highlight for the day was chipping in on number seven for birdie and then a birdie on number 9 led to a good finish. I asked him about his preparation for tournaments. With majors, he always takes extra time to prepare. But the morning of tournaments, he always spends 30 to 40 minutes stretching, 30 minutes on the range, and 30 minutes on the putting green. Overall, in regards to the tournament, he feels that it is, “a great event for northeast Ohio.” I was very fortunate to get to talk with Jason. Also, when Bubba Watson finished, I listened to a few reporters and then snuck in a few questions of my own. He was very easy going, and he had to be pleased with his round. He also shot a 67 today, feeling that his success came from the focus he felt during the round. He made two very lengthy putts for an eagle and a birdie. This always gives a player great momentum. When I asked about his preparation for tomorrow, he was quick to say that he was not even going to touch a club. He will be enjoying his evening at the movies. And it will be his third time this week! He seems extremely relaxed, and it was enjoyable to talk with him.
We met up with our good friend Stewart Williams again today. He gained us access to the CBS studio perched up above the 18th hole. It was such a cool experience. All up on that little stand, they have an entire studio which was just crazy! After, we walked to the CBS studio trailer where all the producers were. It was an absolute zoo in there. Yet somehow, everything still runs smoothly and works out. It was awesome that CBS just let us check out the studio because I probably will never get that opportunity again in my life.
We finished off the day by stopping by the Birdies for the Brave® Patriots Outpost. This pavilion is where active, retired, Reserve, veteran military personnel and their families can enjoy the tournament for free. They get a great close up view of the 14th green and free food and drinks. Phil Mickelson really paved the way to get the Birdies for the Brave program moving, and then sponsors started rolling in, teaming up to give back to those who served our country. It is a great service to show gratitude for their service, and they deserve it.
So, these two days just flew by at the World Golf Championships - Bridgestone Invitational. It is amazing just how much goes on behind the scenes to make a tournament run smoothly. Thousands of people and many volunteers bring it all together. We see the finished product on TV which is always beautiful, but such a great deal of work goes in to make that happen. I am blessed to have had this opportunity. It was a great experience, and absolutely amazing to meet a few TOUR players and Jack Nicklaus. I want to give a shout out to all my friends at The First Tee of Cleveland. Again, I am so fortunate to have enjoyed this experience that is truly once in a lifetime.
Thrilling first day at the World Golf Championships® - Bridgestone Invitational
by Paul Lewandowski
It is a very exciting week here at the World Golf Championships®-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club. It began a rainy morning, but the weather was greatly overshadowed by my anticipation. I had an amazing first day watching the players and visiting with personnel. As I entered the media center, we met Denise Taylor. She showed us the ropes and gave us a basic idea of our agenda. She led us to Chris Reimer, the Director of Communications for the PGA TOUR, who introduced us to a few of his contacts. Chris gave us a great run down of the tournament. He explained how at Firestone Country Club alone there will be upwards of 1300 volunteers. Through his information I realized there really is a lot of action that goes on behind the scenes to make it a picture perfect show for 74 golfers.
On our way out of the media center, I saw Rory McIlroy in a press conference. I walked in and tuned in to the other media personnel having a Q&A with Rory. The week he took off after the Open at Muirfield is something he favors after majors. He did not do as well as he had hoped, but he knew that the course would be very difficult. It was something he could not dwell on if he wanted to prepare himself for this week. He was asked if he prepared any differently this year and simply said that he had prepared the same way; however, feels his game is better that last year. He just has to go out there and play. He finished talking about the tournament saying, “It’s always easier to smile when you’re making birdies.” Next, we made our way to the meteorology trailer and met with Stewart Williams. He is the PGA TOUR meteorologist at the World Golf Championships®-Bridgestone Invitational. He explained that there are guys like him on every major golf tour that travel to each event. He has an important job with so much being at stake with the enormity of the venue. The weather is never something under human control. That is where Stewart comes in and tries his best to prepare everyone. He works with maintenance, officials, other meteorologists, and volunteers to make sure everyone is aware of any weather situation. His trailer had two computers. He used Doppler radar and other maps to predict weather movement. He also had a supercomputer calculating the charge in the air, among other factors. This indicates the possibility of lightning in the area and dictates the course of action he must take. His main job is keeping the players and gallery safe, and he is truly a professional at it. After leaving the weather trailer, I walked around the course a bit and just enjoyed having the opportunity to be at this amazing facility.
On our way around, we saw Tiger Woods holding an outdoor press conference. He looked reasonably confident as far as where he is headed in terms of his golf game. He says that he feels very comfortable on the course which he said was, “key” to his success. We are making our way back to the media center now to watch the Jack Nicklaus’ press conference as he is set to receive the 2013 Ambassador of Golf Award by the Northern Ohio Golf Charities. I will give a full report on his press conference in my blog tomorrow. It was a great learning experience today. It is amazing to experience all of the tournament action up close. I had a great day with the Director of Player Development at The First Tee of Cleveland, Brian McFarland who helped accompany me. I am greatly looking forward to the first round tomorrow.