TPC Sawgrass kicks into High Gear during Players Championship Week under the watchful eye of Derek Sprague (PGA).
By Adam Stanley
Derek Sprague will tell you that he has a very cool job.
And this week at The Players Championship the spotlight is shining brighter on his job.
Sprague was the President of PGA of America 2015-16. He joined TPC Sawgrass in 2018 to be its PGA General Manager. After 26 years at Malone Golf Club, upstate New York, Sprague was hired by the PGA TOUR for Liberty National for two year. He then got tapped on his shoulder to move to Northeast Florida.
Between overseeing a staff in the hundreds – including heaping handfuls of temp workers this week – shaking hands with golf’s top dogs and making time to connect with his fellow PGA pros, this is a busy week for Sprague.
But he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love how our employees here really step up this week. They kick it into high gear,” says Sprague. “We’re built for championships. We do a lot of events here, culinary events, golf events, performance center events and then, this week especially, they kick it up a notch with months and months of planning to be on the big stage and they deliver every time.”
TPC Sawgrass is the crown jewel of the PGA TOUR’s TPC network of courses and has been the long-time host of The Players Championship. It is also the home of the PGA TOUR.
However, despite this being a big week for the TOUR, Sprague – who has served a number of leadership positions within the PGA at both the regional and national level in his three-decade career – said the PGA is well represented. That’s something that he is awfully proud of.
“There are a number of PGA Professionals that we employ here (at TPC Sawgrass), which I’m very proud of, and there are a number of coaches of the best players in the world who are PGA Members, too, says Sprague, who will be working his sixth Players Championship as GM of TPC Sawgrass this week. It’s great to see them and they’re waving at me and saying hello. Its a great feeling to see PGA members and coaches of the best players around the world here on our stage. It brings it all back for me.
Sprague explained that TPC Sawgrass is a great place to host the best players around the world because it is designed for such a grand stage. The club hosts 200 outings of golf each year, as well as 500 banquets.
“This is obviously an elevated event for us with the world watching but we have a fantastic team here of employees that do this day in and day out,” notes Sprague of his squad. “We’re doing big events here all the time. Its not as big as The Players, and we have lots of temp help this Week. This is an iconic, busy place for 51 weeks of the calendar year.
“We have a lot of folks from around the world that travel here to play our courses and enjoy our hospitably.”
With a big smile, Sprague said his job is “absolutely” a cool one.
It’s challenging, of course, due to the complexity of the facility, but that adds to the interest. As GM, he’s serving everyone from the best players in the world who live in Ponte Vedra Beach and play and practice at Sawgrass, but also working with the 1,000 social members the club has, plus the people who come to the club just to eat lunch in the clubhouse they see on television every year.
It’s a wide range but that’s what makes it fun.
“There are not too many better places to go to work every single day,” says Sprague. “You come here and look out onto the iconic course and smell the fresh grass and it is definitely a nice office to come to every day.”
And Sprague is enjoying the job. EverywhereThe Players Championship days are extra special because they include a day of celebration.