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Executive Director's Message

Dear Community Champion,

Gold is a signature color for THE PLAYERS Championship. It is woven throughout everything we do, because it encompasses all that the PGA TOUR’s flagship event represents: a commitment to excellence in every endeavor we undertake, inside and outside the ropes.  Gold also carries a very special meaning this month, because it is the official color of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. As I write this, I have one very special person on my mind: 15-year-old Jake Berglund, an inspiring, energetic teenager who battled B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Best known as “Buzz” for his role as Yulee High School’s mascot, Jake was well-known for his positive attitude, quick wit, and loving spirit.
We first met Jake through the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund, and his positivity was truly contagious. Jake, also an avid DJ, was scheduled to perform in the Patriots’ Outpost at this past Military Appreciation Day at THE PLAYERS Championship; but his health condition prevented him from participating. However, if you attended our Military Appreciation Ceremony, you would have seen a video about Jake, followed by a generous gift presented to the Berglund family by the Jay Fund. Jake’s father proudly served in the US Navy for 26 years.

Nearly one month after that ceremony, Jake passed away on April 12, 2020. However, he continues to serve as an inspiration to so many, including THE PLAYERS Championship team. In honor of what would have been Jake’s 16th birthday (September 24th), his family encouraged citizens and communities across the country to reflect joy and positivity – to #LiveLikeJake

In observance of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we honor Jake, all of the young men and women battling cancer, and the organizations working incredibly hard to serve and support them. 

All the best,
Jared Rice
Executive Director, THE PLAYERS


Lace Up to Beat Cancer
Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off tomorrow and we encourage you to lace up your running shoes to help raise awareness and support those living with breast cancer.  On October 24-25th, THE PLAYERS and The DONNA Foundation will host THE PLAYERS Virtual DONNA 5k.  Typically held on the back nine of THE PLAYERS Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, this race will now be delivered to neighborhoods nationwide in a virtual way. Registration details can be found here. Since the race’s inception in 2009, THE PLAYERS DONNA 5k has raised more than $500,000 for The DONNA Foundation, which helps meet the critical financial needs of those impacted by breast cancer.

“Every day, our staff and supporters join the brave patients and families we serve in choosing love over fear. This year has brought new fears to the forefront, but it has also created boundless opportunities to show love by stepping forward in support of our mission,” said Amanda Napolitano, Executive Director of The DONNA Foundation. “Breast Cancer Awareness Month will look different this year, as we forego in-person events to instead focus on our ‘Everywhere, Together’ campaign. But we are more confident than ever that even in this time of social distancing, we are united in our nationwide commitment to finishing breast cancer.”
Volunteer Spotlight: Matt Welch

One of ten born in Augusta, Ga., Matt Welch, moved to northeast Florida nearly 40 years ago.  After attending THE PLAYERS Championship as a fan for many years, Matt met several of the Vice Chairmen. Recognizing the impact and contributions volunteers at this championship have on the local community, Matt decided to join THE PLAYERS volunteer family. Matt has volunteered at THE PLAYERS for the past 14 years and currently serves as the First Vice Chairman under Troy Smith’s leadership.  In this role, Matt oversees the Evacuation, Marshals, Player Escorts, PLAYERS Pride and Tournament Support communities.
Matt retired in 2016 as President of Elkins Constructors, Inc. after 32 years of service. He is currently self-employed as a construction consultant with DanRaye, LLC. and is well-respected as a construction manager, with experiences in risk management, organizational structure, documentation, scheduling and problem solving. In fact, he even served as the lead on the Jacksonville Main Library and PGA TOUR Entertainment’s building in World Golf Village.


Matt and his wife Susan currently live in Fleming Island where Matt enjoys watching Georgia Tech sports and golfing.  In addition to his involvement with THE PLAYERS, Welch has been active with a number of organizations including serving on the boards for the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, the Clay County Chamber of Commerce, the Clay County Development Authority, the YMCA Board of Directors for Clay and Duval Counties, the Board of Directors for the Clay County Utility Authority and Catholic Charities.
Beyond the Ropes: Children's Home Society
Long after the final putt is made at THE PLAYERS Championship, the impact of PGA TOUR’s flagship event extends throughout the year. With a commitment to support the communities in and near where it hosts its internationally-recognized tournament, THE PLAYERS has supported nonprofit organizations in the five-county area with more than $100 million. Each month, we will spotlight a charity making a difference in the lives of citizens and communities.

When students in St. Johns County were catapulted into distance learning overnight, adjusting to the “new normal” was confusing and overwhelming for families. Now, students are settling back into schools for a year unlike any other. Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS), an organization committed to trauma-informed care and counseling, recognizes how stresses are still prevalent among students, parents and teachers as they continue to navigate the new educational landscape. In 2019, THE PLAYERS Red Coats awarded CHS a grant to help them serve more students.  The grant provided two additional counselors to see students both in-school and through online counseling with CHS telehealth services at The Webster School and South Woods Elementary, two of CHS’ Community Partnership Schools in St. Johns County. Families at these schools now have the support of additional mental health counselors to help kids, parents and teachers cope with and manage their thoughts, feelings and mental health during these uncertain times.  

“Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my ability and commitment to continue serving our families and children have not changed thanks to technology and the patience and understanding of those we serve, along with the community partners including THE PLAYERS who have helped us be steadfast in providing care to our community," said Lauren Swartek, CHS counselor with The Webster School, whose position was added as a direct result of the Red Coat grant.  “Although almost everything seems to have changed since March 2020, I take pride in knowing that our children and families have been able to rely and depend on us.”
For Christy’s son Aden, the behavior issues started in kindergarten. “He would throw tables, chairs, knock stuff off the desk,” said Christy. The behavior continued into the first grade, where he was suspended and removed several times from the school bus.  Aden’s teacher worked with school leaders to address his unique barriers to learning.

Through the Community Partnership School ™ model, Aden started seeing a CHS counselor, and was matched with a mentor. Aden now uses the coping skills he learned in counseling to calm himself down and manage his emotions. Aden is now in the 3rd grade at The Webster School, and has improved his grades and behavior.
“We would have been pretty defeated,” said Christy. “It took a team of people to come in and sit down with him and make him see, aside from his mom, that people care.”
News to Know
2020 Tournament Chairman Andy Carroll receives READ USA Award
Congratulations to THE PLAYERS 2020 Tournament Volunteer Chairman Andy Carroll on receiving the “Read to Lead” award from READ USA, a local non-profit that aims to put books in the hands of every low-income child and introduce the love of reading and learning. Carroll will virtually receive his award at READ USA’s Peace in the Pages Awards Ceremony, this Friday, October 2, from 11:30-1 pm. On what would have been Gandhi's 151st Birthday, the event will highlight the link between literacy and empathy, while celebrating his ideals for peace, unity, and freedom. Click here to learn more.

THE PLAYERS Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month
Did you know that Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas holds the record for the longest putt made on the Island Green 17th Hole? In the final round of the 2019 championship, Vegas sunk a 69-foot, 7-inch birdie putt en route to a T3 finish. “To choose that hole and make such an incredible putt with the tournament on the line, it couldn’t be any more special… I was extremely happy to two-putt from there and the moment I saw that ball anywhere close to going in, I got extremely excited,” Vegas said.
THE PLAYERS social channels featured
Vegas’ epic putt to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month and will continue to highlight other notable Hispanic golfers who have conquered the Stadium Course, such as Spain’s Sergio Garcia, who won THE PLAYERS in 2008 after defeating Paul Goydos in a sudden-death playoff.

Photos of the Month
Following the 2019 tournament, THE PLAYERS Red Coats contributed $25,000 to support the renovation of Pine Castle’s Courtyard. Earlier this month, members of THE PLAYERS staff were joined by Red and Blue Coats to help landscape the courtyard, which is now titled THE PLAYERS Courtyard.  THE PLAYERS Courtyard will serve as a relaxation and gathering spot for the participants at Pine Castle.
Pine Castle is one of the first organizations in Florida to serve children with special needs.  It was founded in 1952 by a group of 33 families of children with intellectual/developmental (I/D) differences.  Today, Pine Castle is a leader in serving adults with I/D differences, welcoming more than 300 individuals to its campus for the Day Program, which offers Life Skill and Work Skill Training providing opportunities to Learn, Work, and Connect.

here to see the team hard at work!



Look Who's Talking: Courtney Crews
Where are you from: Stafford, VA
Current Position: Manager, Sponsorship Activation & Fulfillment
How long have you been with the PGA TOUR: 4 years
What’s are your favorite sport teams: Atlanta Braves
Hobby: Hanging out with friends and golfing
Favorite vacation spot: Lake Sinclair, Ga.
Bucket list item: Travel to Australia

©2019 THE PLAYERS Championship, PGA TOUR, All rights reserved.

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