Our golf enthusiast enjoyed the culminating event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedEx Cup.
By Bill Bauer
Wine, tiny homes, private jets, and vodka have little in common—unless you just happened to take a stroll, like I did, around Atlanta’s prestigious East Lake Golf Club during the recent PGA’s TOUR Championship. The final event in the chase for the FedEx Cup and its $10 million payday drew the top 30 golfers in the world and hosted thousands who were treated not only to outstanding golf, but also an array of exhibits, eateries, and food and beverage pavilions that created the ultimate golf tournament experience. The days of attending a tournament and trudging around the golf course or camping out at specific tee or green are over, lending new meaning to the term 19th Hole! I arrived at East Lake for the first round and surveyed the golf course, stopping first at the William Hill Winery at the junction of holes 16 and 17.
“We’ve been at 17 PGA tournaments this year and try to create a sense of luxury on the golf course,” said event marketing specialist Jillian Hill, who with her cordial staff served the finest upscale wines from William Hill in a wonderful tented pavilion above the 16th green at East Lake. Jillian pointed out that the PGA and William Hill have become, literally, partners in wine, as the PGA designated William Hill Estate Winery as the “Official Wine of the PGA TOUR, Champions Tour and Web.com Tour” in North America. Located in the Napa Valley, William Hill is owned by the E&J Gallo Winery and is a purveyor of luxury Chardonnay and other sought-after varietals crafted from California’s premier coastal regions.
Fresh flowers, flat screen televisions showing live golf coverage, and comfortable seating adorned a mini version of William Hill’s California tasting room where guests could see the 16th green, and the 14th and 17th tee boxes. “We want our guests to experience our fine wines in an equally fine setting, and relax while enjoying the golf tournament,” said Jillian. “It takes about a week to erect the pavilion at each tournament and it is a replica of our Napa Valley location.” I grabbed a sandwich at a nearby food stand, and savored a crisp Sauvignon Blanc before tasting several other wines, including the ever popular, sparkling Prosecco. I departed to meander around the course and visit other venues, but returned, found a seat overlooking the green, and watched, wine in hand, as two by two, the best in golf completed the 16th hole.
A short walk down the 14th fairway brought me to the center of activity at East Lake: the SO COOL ZONE. A Taste of Atlanta, featuring food favorites from Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Universal Joint, and The King of Pops, provided excellent beef brisket, smoked wings, tempting tacos, and refreshing popsicles, and was surrounded by animals from the Georgia Aquarium, the Verizon Putting Experience, and a giant video screen featuring live telecast of the tournament. Patrons could also escape from the sun at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Shade Stand and pick up free sunscreen as well. A real treat at the Zone was entering Southern Company’s “tiny home,” a less than 300 sq. house that actually sleeps six! Southern Company has been associated with the TOUR Championship since 1998 and is a huge sponsor of the First Tee program and had the privilege of presenting the 2016 Payne Stewart Award to this year’s recipient, Jim Furyk. No visit would have been complete without stopping by the NetJet exhibit—an actual jet plane, minus the tail section! NetJets has the largest fleet of private jets and provides high speed, super comfortable travel, coast to coast and across the pond for PGA golfers as they hop from tournament to tournament.
Georgia Tech’s Matt Kuchar, PGA Golf Professional and member of this year’s Ryder Cup team, has a signature cocktail—The 19th Hole—and it was the drink of choice for many at the Grey Goose, air-conditioned lounge by the same name. Positioned along the fairway and green by the 12th hold and the 18th tee, it was my final stop before settling down to watch golf. Vodka, orange, pineapple, and lemon-lime soda over ice was the perfect cool down after making my way around the course, although there was no shortage of Grey Goose Bloody Marys making the rounds. Grey Goose has been a partner with the PGA for three years and Kuchar, a six-time PGA Tour winner, takes his sponsorship to Grey Goose as seriously as his game. “To me it means a great deal: To strive every day to be better than the day before. To see the small details add up. To one day find yourself a cut above the rest. And know that you’re among the world’s best.”
It will be a year before the FedEx Cup’s final golf tournament returns to East Lake, but shortly after the upcoming Ryder Cup in Minnesota, the chase for the ultimate prize in golf begins anew, in what is now a wraparound golf season. The Safeway Open, at Silverado Country Club in Napa Valley, Calif., is the first stop in the 2016-2017 PGA Season. Rest assured that as the schedule makes it way from the west coast to Hawaii, and eventually heads east, that each tournament will be well represented by the many PGA partners like William Hill and Grey Goose. Georgia golf fans David Wadley and Dinah Posey who watched the tournament with front row seats at the William Hill Lounge, summed it up. “This is a first class experience: great wine, great golf and a great atmosphere.” I couldn’t agree more!
East Lake Golf Club has been the permanent home of the TOUR Championship since 2005. The tournament was first played at East Lake in 1998 and has been held at East Lake 16 times since then. The TOUR Championship is the culminating event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedEx Cup, with only the top 30 players on the points list qualifying each year. The 2016 TOUR Championship and FedEx Cup winner is Rory McIlroy.
– Photos by Bill Bauer
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