Murray Beard is a local realtor who served as the tournament chairman of THE PLAYERS Championship in 2000.
Can you please tell us about your background with THE PLAYERS Championship, and your family’s connections to the tournament?
I started as a volunteer with the old Greater Jacksonville Open as a teenager when I was a standard bearer for one year at Hidden Hills. As an adult, I began volunteering in 1982 just after the tournament moved to its permanent home at TPC Sawgrass. Those were fun days with the volunteers taking on significant roles in the operation of the tournament. Over the years, I volunteered on many committees, including Markers (now Walking Scorers); Inventory/Supplies; Course Prep; Sign Installation; VIP Parking; Banking and Spirit. We helped with the SENIOR PLAYERS Championship when it was held here, along with the U.S. Amateur in 1994, the first of Tiger Woods’ three wins.
I was promoted to vice chairman in 1996 when Gerry Hurst was chairman of the tournament. I was honored to chair the tourney in 2000, the year Hal Sutton won on a Monday finish. I got my children involved when they were early teens, initially as runners and later as standard bearers. They enjoyed being able to get up close to some great (and not so great) players. My son Max was Standard Bearer of the Year in 2009. As an adult, my daughter has gained a passion for the tournament and over the past several years has chaired the Standard Bearer committee. This year, she will oversee the Benefactor Committee, coordinating about 40 volunteers.
How was THE PLAYERS Championship different when you served as chairman?
THE PLAYERS was very different in 2000. Things had begun to change with the “Tiger” effect with more PGA Tour staff and trying to upgrade the look and feel of the tourney. TV coverage was expanding, and corporate hospitality was beginning to grow. Just look at 16 and 17 today with all the hospitality venues. It was just a fraction of that in 2000 and before. The volunteers associated with corporate hospitality has grown. I think we had 1,200 overall volunteers in 2000, compared to over 2,000 today.
What are your thoughts on the tournament moving back to March?
I like the tournament going back to March for two reasons. The weather is cooler and more enjoyable, and I like the PGA Tour’s efforts to create a schedule of major tournaments with the year kicking off with THE PLAYERS.
What makes THE PLAYERS Championship so special?
From a big picture perspective, it is a significant golf championship for the professionals. We will always debate if it is a major. Locally, it has a huge impact on our community. It is the single largest event in our community, and the charitable impact cannot be understated. Millions of dollars are raised to make a difference in our community.
What is your favorite moment from THE PLAYERS Championship?
My lasting memory of THE PLAYERS was the year I was chairman of the tournament. I had the pleasure of spending the day with Byron Nelson, one of the great legends of golf. I drove him around the golf course, so he could see and invite players to come play in his tournament in Fort Worth. The respect and admiration all the professional players shared with him was amazing and the stories he shared during our day together was priceless. He sadly passed away a couple of years later.
What do you enjoy most about living in Ponte Vedra?
Speaking of changes, my wife Elise and I moved to Ponte Vedra Beach in 1982 back when A1A was a two-lane road and many of the neighborhoods were not constructed yet. Sawgrass Village was under construction for the first time! We love our little beach community and all the little quirks of it. It’s a beautiful place with great friends and neighbors.