TPC Sawgrass director of merchandising Lea Osol noticed something last month when she was working at the PGA Tour Fan Shop at the WM Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale.
The tournament had record crowds, and not just at the rowdy 16th hole. They were packing the Fan Shop and buying everything from tees to $200 shirts.
“The event itself had a record number of people and coming off that, we thought, ‘my goodness … we have to make sure we’re stocked for The Players. We’re going to have incredible demand so we went out in the past month and brought it a lot more stuff. It’s our marquee event and we think people are coming out like they did at Scottsdale, with a lot of pent-up energy.”
Osol and a small army of around five dozen volunteers and TPC Sawgrass pro shop staff will be ready for next week, when fans begin flocking to the Players Stadium Course for the first time on Tuesday.
With new apparel lines, a wide variety of styles nods to the 17th hole of the Stadium Course and the First Coast and even history lessons, Players fans can easily spend more time and money than they might have planned on when they enter the 33,000-square-foot merchandise area, which dominates The Players Welcome Experience as soon as fans stroll across the scenic walkway from the public parking lot.
Osol said they’re ready for a big week after the last two years. In 2020, the Fan Shop had only one competitive round day before the tournament was canceled because of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year the tournament sold only 25 percent of its tickets while the Tour was still operating under pandemic conditions.
Osol said the loss of the days in 2020 and the number of potential customers in 2021 were mitigated a bit for different reasons.
“We had a real shopping frenzy on that Thursday in 2020 once people knew the tournament might be canceled,” she said. “Then last year the people who did get tickets bought a lot of merchandise for family and friends who couldn’t get here. They were walking around showing them our merchandise on Fact Time, asking them, “do you want this? How about this?”
The Tour doesn’t release sales figures or customer traffic numbers but Osol said this year’s return to normal should result in huge sales.
“We’re pretty excited and pretty stocked up,” she said. “We were worried about supply-chain issues but our vendors really went to work for us and made we had what we think we’ll need.”
And what will the Fan Shop have?
• A new women’s clothing line is lululemon, which has expanded from athletic wear to what Osol describes as lifestyle clothing – suitable for golf, tennis or lunch dates.
• Recent brands brought in that have proven to be popular are Lilly Pulitzer for women and Peter Millar for men. The Fan Shop will have plenty of both.
• If anyone gets into an argument over Players Championship history, there are clothing items that can help. The Fan Shop is carrying T-shirts with pictures and years of their victories of the five multiple winners of The Players, Jack Nicklaus, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Davis Love III and Tiger Woods.
• The Players is paying homage to its 45-year history on the First Coast with items such as shirts, golf towels and hats with logos such as “JAX, PVB [for Ponte Vedra Beach] and 904.”
• And the Fan Shop has no end to the items branded with the 17th hole “Island Green” of the Players Stadium Course, which is just a wedge from the rear entrance of the facility.
“That little hole is the best salesperson we have out here,” Osol said.
• There are the usual golf items available: balls, tees, divot tools, ball markers, glasses, tumblers and keychains.
Osol said it’s been a lot of work for her and her staff to get ready for tournament week.
“The buying process was challenging all worth it,” she said. “Once you see it come together and see people getting excited.”