PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The first round of The Players Championship hit some speed bumps Thursday, with storms causing a four-hour weather delay.
Tournament play stopped around 11:15 a.m. and resumed at 3:15 p.m., once severe weather and the threat of lightning passed.
Storms pushing through the Ponte Vedra Beach area didn’t just cause problems for golfers and fans, they’re also affecting local small businesses who sell food and drinks at the event.
Now many are concerned that if the bad weather keeps coming, they could lose important revenue.
“It’s a real tough variable,” said Aaron Levine, who owns Homespun Kitchen in Atlantic Beach.
It’s the restaurant’s third time as a vendor at The Players, with a tent near the Fan Shop.
“We don’t want to waste food either,” Levine said. “You’ve got a walk-in full of food. We’ve got people standing here ready to work. It’s a tough variable because your employees are on the clock and your foods already been bought. The food is bought and already prepped. We’re sitting on a lot of food that’s already prepped.”
He was prepared to serve thousands and said the support was strong until inclement weather rolled through. Levine noted that his food is fresh, made to order and perishable. Every hour delayed is lost revenue.
“It’s part of the equation though,” he pointed out. “We know that coming in here. You don’t sign up for something like this and think that you’re not going to do that. It’s like OK, there are unknown variables. You come out here and you do it.”
Other business owners said they too were concerned about weather as the tournament staff shut down food and beverage sales during the worst of the storms. Many people left, while others waited it out from the Fan Shop to the parking lot.
Levine is staying optimistic.
“I think the weather’s going be good this weekend,” he said. “It’s gonna be awesome. So we just muscle through it today.”
The Players has roughly 20 restaurant vendors who, along with caterers, prepare to feed crowds of 150,000 people.
They bring in staff and often hire contractors to work the event. A bartender said she traveled to the area to work and relied on large crowds for tips.
While many fans left due to the weather, several stayed to “wait it out.”
Among those were a group of friends from St. Louis, Tampa and St. Augustine.
“Like an outdoor event, any kind of outdoor event that’s what you can expect,” said Kent Ralston. “You just got to live with it. But I do feel sorry for the people who live here or work here and are trying to make money raise money for charity.”
Ellen Dickinson and Sue Rombak, local residents, said the rain put a damper on their day but they planned to return when the weather cleared.
“It’s beyond our control,” Rombak said. “We’ve just got a wing it.”
The Players had limited capacity in 2021 due to the pandemic.
In 2020, The Players stopped mid-week because of the emergence of the coronavirus. In that case, vendors had tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of food leftover. Many were able to sell it at their brick and mortar locations in the Jacksonville area while others donated it through Feeding Northeast Florida.