‘New beginnings’: The Players makes $100K donation for Northwest Jacksonville park

Clanzel Brown facility will get major facelift after pledge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Players Championship thinks and gets outside of its Ponte Vedra Beach headquarters as much as it can.

On Monday afternoon, the tournament emphasized that again.

The young children there were far more interested in the game of golf baseball — hitting tennis balls off of a tee at home plate and then running the bases — than the bigger news everyone was there to celebrate.

With the area’s marquee sporting event just 50 days away, The Players was there to announce a donation of $100,000 to help revitalize the Clanzel Brown Community Center and Park in Northwest Jacksonville.

“It’s been a big area of focus for all of our community partners, too,” said Jared Rice, executive director of The Players.

“First Tee, they’ve been working in this community quite some time. The work of [executive director] Jeff Willoughby in the Northeast Florida chapter is absolutely incredible. So again, our ability to do more and identify these types of projects are something we want to get behind.”

Many of the children who took part in the golf baseball game had one interest Monday — put the tennis ball into play and round the bases.

But the broader goal is long term. The donation will help boost the facility in myriad ways, and not all of them golf-centered.

“For The Players Championship perspective, we want to be great listeners to our community. And this facility is a perfect example of that, the most recent example of that,” Rice said. “We’re right around the corner from the First Tee. We work very closely with the Boys and Girls Club and to be able to bring golf and enhance the facility back to this area is pretty spectacular.”

While Rice said there will be a state-of-the-art putting green installed, the upgrades will stretch beyond just that sport.

Ju’Coby Pittman, councilwoman who oversees District 8, said that she envisions the modest area now as developing into a full-on sports complex.

“Having the Players here today with their commitment of the $100,000, and those that know me know I love money to be invested in District 8 … which 8 means new beginnings,” she said. “So this is an opportunity for new beginnings.”

Pittman said the timing and the impact of such a financial contribution can’t be overstated or celebrated enough. The investment in an area of town that has been neglected in the past will resonate for years and years.

“A lot of promises that were made over the years, but this particular day on Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration, will make a difference where people in the community feel that there is an opportunity and that the community cares and it matters,” she said.

The first round of The Players Championship begins on March 10 at the Stadium Course. After the event was canceled in 2020 and had limited attendance last year, it expects to be back to normal operating procedures this year.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.