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- 2017 - March - 8th -
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Jason Day, left, defending champion of The Players, helped former PGA Tour player Jeff Klauk win $10,000 for his charity Tuesday. Day hit a tee shot for each charity and a representative of the nonprofits hit the second shot in The Players Charity Challenge. The person closest to the hole won $10,000; Klauk was 7 inches away. At right is Jared Rice, executive director of The Players.

By Mark Basch, Contributing Writer

After taking over as executive director of The Players in December, Jared Rice hasn’t had much time to think about putting his own stamp on the annual golf tournament.

“Our team’s eye is on May 9 to 14,” when the tournament will be held at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Rice said Tuesday after a media day event at the course. “We are highly focused on the next 60 days.”

Actually, changes for this year’s tournament had been planned since last year.

The PGA Tour Tuesday showcased changes to the 12th hole, which include a new grandstand overlooking the green that also offers views of the 13th tee and is open to all ticketholders.

The 12th hole also was modified so golfers can reach the green on the 301-yard par-4 hole with their tee shots.

“It’s interesting. It will be a little fun to play this year,” said 2016 Players champion Jason Day.

However, Day had difficulty finding the green as he took tee shots as part of a charity challenge.

“I think I may be laying up in the tournament,” he said.

The Players is a major event on the Jacksonville area calendar. According to The PGA Tour, it drew attendance of 213,000 in 2016 during the week and generated an economic impact of $151 million for Northeast Florida.

Rice said fans come from all over the world and the event is televised internationally, showcasing the area.

“Jacksonville and our community never look better than during tournament week,” he said.

Rice said the course closed for six months after last year’s Players to make changes. Besides the renovations to the 12th hole, TPC Sawgrass also made changes between the sixth and seventh holes that will make that area more fan-friendly, he said.

“We made numerous little touches outside the ropes which will continue to make this a best-in-class tournament,” he said.

Day said the Players is a special event for PGA Tour professionals, which he felt as he arrived Tuesday morning.

“Driving in, it just felt like a major championship and it’s not even close to tournament time,” he said.

“You really forget how many people come out to this event,” Day said. “Fans are a huge part.”

Rice, who was promoted from vice president of sales and marketing to become executive director, said he doesn’t see the Players as his tournament to run. He said the tournament is run by a 16-employee team.

“The tournament is bigger than any one player,” he said.

mbasch@jaxdailyrecord.com

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