PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA – There was a brief moment on Thursday morning when Blayne Barber took a deep breath and allowed himself to look at a scoreboard.
His name was first.
Barber, who grew up in nearby Lake City, Fla., and is making his first Players Championship appearance, opened with a 2-under 70 at TPC Sawgrass. That alone would be reason enough to be excited, but it’s made particularly special by the passionate history the former Auburn University golfer has with the tournament he considers a major part of his childhood. Barber attended the tournament each year, driving an hour-and-a-half east with his family to witness his heroes in person.
“My goal coming into today was to just soak everything in,” Barber said. “I would be lying if I said it wasn’t special. You want to be there on Sunday, but it was cool to be in contention early.”
One of his first memories is taking a picture with the late Payne Stewart here in the 1990s. One of his best memories is winning the Florida State Amateur here in 2009.
Add another one to the list.
With a horde of family and friends following, Barber put on a show with a roller-coaster round of golf starting with an eagle at the par-5 second before hitting speed bumps with a double bogey on the par-4 15th and a bogey at the par-3 17th. Overall, there was more good than bad.
“If you would have told me 2 under at the beginning of the day, I probably would have taken it,” Barber said. “It’s hard to accept sometimes, but this is a major test of golf and you are going to make mistakes.”
Barber is not the only one in his family working this week at the Players. His mom, Terri, operates a cash register in the volunteer headquarters and has been a volunteer since 2012. This year, Terri Barber is taking part in the Volunteer Challenge, a PGA Tour contest where fans vote for their favorite volunteers. A total of $135,000 will be spread among the top four vote-getters in the contest.
Ballots can be cast until Saturday afternoon. CLICK HERE to vote