Last week’s Wells Fargo Championship at Eagle Point Golf Club brought a lineup of the world’s best golfers to Wilmington. It also gave locals an opportunity to get personal contact with the professional golfers.
Unlike other many other spectator sports, golf offers a unique ability for fans to intermingle with the players.
“A lot of the players were really nice to the kids,” said Mark Ledermann, who brought his two daughters to the tournament.
The course was lined with fans seeking autographs, handshakes, fist bumps or simply to wish encouragement to their favorite golfer. And of all the fans lining up, none approached with more enthusiasm than the kids, several who bragged about how many autographs and souvenirs they scored during the tournament.
“We had to look for the people in the long pants,” said Sydney Ledermann, 9, on her autograph hunting technique. She bragged of getting 37 signatures, which covered her hat. Sister Avery, 7, also collected a glove from a player’s caddy during the early practice rounds, while friend Addisyn Dwyer collected 7, including from her new favorite player, Billy Hurley.
Hurley got noticed due to his playing with fan favorite Phil Mickelson, who attracted crowds as he crossed the golf course.
“My favorite part was when I saw Mickelson putt,” said Jasper King, a member of the Country Club of Landfall PGA Junior League.
“And I got a high five from him,” added Atlin Snyder, 10.
Otto King, 11, who is on the Landfall team with his brother Jasper, said his favorite part was a dramatic moment with Pat Perez, who finished second in the tournament with a strong performance Sunday. While watching the 16th green, Perez hit a putt that hesitated on the lip before falling in.
“It almost didn’t go in, and then it fell in,” said Otto King said. “Everyone cheered really loud.”
The putt kept Perez near the top of the leaderboard, though the tournament was eventually won by Brian Harman, who sank a 28 foot putt on the 18th green to take a one-stroke lead to the clubhouse that he wouldn’t relinquish.
After the tournament, several parents talked about how much fun their kids had, most of it punctuated by efforts to meet the players.
“There’s not many things that can keep kids entertained for three days,” said Julie Ledermann. “They wanted to keep coming back.”