The 16th on the Stadium
Evan Schiller
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
  • Sawgrass was a 415-acre swamp full of water moccasins and alligators when PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman bought it in 1978. He paid $1 for the site.

  • The 5-foot-8 Beman had to struggle to see the action at tournaments: "I'm looking through the back of everybody's head, trying to figure out who is playing." He asked Pete Dye to design a course where spectators could view several holes at one time.

  • Dye's original greens on the Stadium Course used native soil that sprouted weeds. To fix the problem, course superintendent David Postlewaite brought in a herd of goats. The beasts were banished when they learned to clamber up berms onto the clubhouse roof.

  • In Dye's initial design, the 17th green had water on the right side only. His wife, Alice, came up with the idea for the island green on what is now the most photographed hole in America.

  • During a 1985 tournament for America's worst avid golfers, grocer Angelo Spagnolo from Fayette City, Pennsylvania, shot a round of 257. That's seven strokes less than Greg Norman's 72-hole record of 264. Spagnolo hit 27 balls in the water on 17 before putting down the cart path. He tapped in for A 66 on the hole.

  • Spagnolo isn't alone. Every year, 122,000 balls find the drink at 17 -- that's an average of three balls for everyone who plays the course.

  • With an $8 million purse, the Players Championship is the richest event in golf.

  • The fall greens fee is $212. Your best bet to get a tee time is to stay at the Sawgrass Marriott Resort (sawgrassmarriott.com), which provides guests access to the Stadium Course.

  • "This course is 90 percent horse manure and 10 percent luck," scoffed J.C. Snead after the first Players Championship here. But the concept caught on; the success of Sawgrass has led to the creation of almost three dozen TPC tracks.

  • When Jerry Pate, the first winner here, shoved Beman and Dye into the pond at the 18th green, it cost Beman more than his dignity. "I came out with nothing dry to wear," Dye said, "so I went into the clubhouse and charged a pair of pants and a shirt to Mr. Beman."

  • Tiger Woods made his first televised fist pump on the island green on his way to winning the 1994 U.S. Amateur.

  • While you're there, ask bartender Ricardo Gracia, 89, to fix you his specialty drink. Gracia invented the piNa colada at a hotel in Madrid in 1954. He moved to Florida 18 years ago and now serves his specialty at the Marriott's Augustine Grille and the Cafe on The Green from 3 p.m. To midnight Wednesday through Saturday.

Keep track of the Top 100 Courses you've played with our solid walnut, engraved plaque. To order the You Can Play plaque for $195 (shipping is $14 or $50 overnight in the continental U.S.), call 800-449-4097 or visit www.golfspast.com/top100.

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