The Players a success among fans

Executive director looks at positives, ways to improve experience

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - As the major sponsors of The Players Championship got their chance to tee it up the day after the pros left, tournament organizers like Matt Rapp were using the day to do a little Monday morning quarterbacking, looking for ways to improve what happens outside the ropes.

In all, a record 174,000 people attended the tournament, 12,000 more than last year.

"We have the best fan spectator experience bar none in golf. Nobody comes even close," said Matt Rapp, executive director of The Players. "But to maintain that, you have to improve it every year."

The tour spent a half-million dollars more this year, which included a high-dollar parking management company.

"And the plan that they came up with, better signage, better traffic management, timing the lights, having officers at different places so we could have release valves, encouraging people to use (County Road) 210," Rapp said.

The $45 parking fee was waived for carpoolers, which helped cut down on traffic. But not everything about the event was perfect.

"I'd say one thing that leaps off the page is handling the garbage," Rapp said. "We're probably going to have to double our garbage collection."

There were lots of food wrappers because there was a lot more eating and drinking, with 40 additional new places to buy food and drinks, making the lines a lot shorter. And as Cincinnati golf fans Eva and Mark Sargent noticed, there were a lot friendlier people in those lines.

"Everybody was so nice and everybody was having such a good time and polite," Eva said. "I mean, it was amazing."

It's important to get people to come out to the tournament in the first place, but it can be just as crucial to give them reason to stay. And nothing drives that point home like a rain delay.

Thousands of people did leave on Saturday when the storm hit, but thousands stayed and continued to socialize.

Among them were Eric Sciarrone and Melissa Lettif visiting from Colorado. They were surprised at how many other young people they saw tweeting, texting and Facebooking right along side them.

"We definitely got some great shots," Melissa said. "I mean, we were so excited. We are Instagram fans, so we were on Instagram with our photos."

Copyright 2013 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.