Hillsdale Daily News, Mich., Nancy Hastings column
March 13--March is always a month to look forward to since it marks an anniversary, which usually means an escape to warmer climates.
This time, it meant a visit to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where some snowbird neighbors spend their winters. An invitation to their part of paradise was just what the doctor ordered after a harsh winter in Michigan.
Crossing off a bucket list item this year, we were fortunate to attend the beginning of the most colorful PGA tournament in the world -- the Valspar Championship at Copperhead Course on the Innisbrook Resort (Pro-Am).
The next question coming is: "Are you a golf enthusiast?" No, not really. But I know an opportunity when I see one. In my line of work, I often take advantage of opportunities to learn about new ventures. So when I learned Tiger Woods would be in the same breathing space, I knew that another such opportunity probably wouldn't come my way.
While there last week, my hubby and I were connected to some colorful experiences unique to this tournament. Valspar, America's most widely distributed retail paint brand, was the sponsor of the tournament.
The Valspar Championship is hosted by a not-for-profit organization, Copperhead Charities, Inc., a volunteer group of Tampa Bay area community leaders known as Copperheads. Working with Pro Links Sports, an experienced golf management company, the members have the dual ambition of raising money for charity and providing golf fans with the best PGA Tour competition.
Color scouts were around to reward those dressed colorfully and there were colorful mini-oases around the course for snapping and sharing photos. Of interest was Chameleon Cove -- a man-made beach with two enormous sand-sculpture chameleons. And, of course, the famous copperhead statue continuously has a line of people waiting to take selfies by the large bronze statuesque figure.
Sitting in a bright yellow, oversized Adirondack chair, we looked like two little kids having the time of our lives. Flowering trees and green grass were enough to send the tired senses into orbit.
The Valspar Block Party behind the 18th green was a place to see tiny houses with big inspiration, pick up a popsicle and enter to win a trip for two to the U.S. Open in June.
Perhaps the most colorful experience -- beyond asking for autographs from the pros -- was meeting a sweet 83-year-old woman named Joy. Joy lives up to her name, serving as a marshal on hole 13 for the fifth year in a row. She knows more about golf than most and I soon learned that sticking near her would give me a better chance to get the coveted autographs so many were vying for.
When Joy walked up to the rope and held out her visor for Sergio Garcia to sign, the pro complied and smiled as if she was his grandmother. Who says age doesn't have it's advantages?
Joy told me she has played golf on some of the most famous courses in the world, including the St. Andrews Golf Course in Scotland and courses in Australia and Africa. She has a wall of fame in her home with signatures and photographs of famous players dating back to the early 20th century.
With her help, I was also able to get autographs from Ernie Els, Paul Casey and Cory McIlroy. I did shoot a photo of Woods, but he was too preoccupied to stop and sign for even cute little Joy. His fan- base following was enormous, so we held back and chatted with those more cooperative. A funny experience was hearing "fore" when Webb Simpson hit a ball near us and later apologized for giving us a scare.
This year, we took a swing at something new. As the Valspar logo says, change is always in style, so discovering the endless colors of Tarpon Springs and the Valspar Tournament ranks up there with brightly colored sunsets that beckon a return visit.
Nancy Hastings is a Daily News staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @nhastingsHDN.
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