The idea was simple. We would have all of our “America’s Guests” from the Dream 18 sign a handful of flags that we could auction off to charity at the end of our 2010 project.
The execution was not so simple.
We didn’t come up with the idea until about a third of the way through the 2010 Dream 18 so we had to backtrack to get the flags autographed by some of our guests. This included the flags traveling with the PGA Tour’s Chris Reimer to Atlanta to get Jim Furyk’s signature (he played our 5th hole). Mission accomplished thanks to Jim and Chris.
In October, we had all of the signatures except three. One of the three was the great Arnold Palmer, who helped with our introduction on the 15th hole and obviously gave us some star power for the auction.
This is where it got fun - if you want to call it that. Mr. Palmer received the flags in Orlando by mail. He signed them and sent them back. We never got them back. Lost in the mail!
If you saw me in the fall, there was a good chance I had the flags with me at all times. With no disrespect intended to the post office, putting the flags in the mailman’s hands was a bad decision..
We waited a few weeks to see if they just got shipped somewhere else but still no flags. Now, we’re in early December and this is becoming the never ending project.
We ordered new flags (special thanks to Here’s Fred Golf Co. for the discounted price). The goal was to get this thing done by Christmas including the framing so we set out on a ten day, more than 1,000 mile journey from Orlando to St. Simon’s Island.
What happened during that journey actually made the entire project more fun and gave us more stories to tell. Here are some anecdotes on how we got our guest’s to re-sign the flags.
Josh Scobee, Brad Meester, Vic Ketchman - These guys were easy. We saw them everyday in the locker room and they were kind enough to sign the flags again. It is a faux pas to ask for autographs if you’re a media member - even if it is for a good cause. I did the old drop and go trick. Scobee signed at the locker and Meester was actually getting treatment when he signed.
Nate Rodenberger - You know its not easy to get on the Navy base at Mayport. Nate is one of the guys that hadn’t signed the original set of flags. We got the Lt. Commander while shooting an Army-Navy game story on the base.
Pedro Bragan, Jr. - Another easy get. Pedro’s always at the Baseball Grounds. Go to his office and you leave with a few more stories -- never a bad visit.
Joe Cowart, Artis Gilmore - Hey, we never said this was a classy autograph signing. Both of these guys met me at the Kangaroo Gas Station within minutes. That’s called two birds with one stones and on this journey that was a good 20 minutes! By the way you have to have two markers when Artis signs - he autographed in two different colors - and you better bring a good handshake.
Jaxson de Ville - I’ll tell the Jaxson one here because right after the Kangaroo stop I was headed to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee. I’m waiting at the light and who do I see right behind me -- you betcha - the big Jaxson de Ville van on my bumper. I seriously yelled out the window to Curtis and he stopped at D.D. for a brief autograph signing.
Jim Furyk - Keep in mind the first time we got Jim we sent the flags on a flight to Atlanta so he could sign them at the Tour Championship. He won the Tour Championship and consequently the PGA Player of the Year Award. In December, the Tour had a media session with Furyk to celebrate his fantastic year. Ironically, Jim signed them again while sitting just feet away from the trophies that he sewed up in Atlanta. Good Karma!
Pepper Peete - This was another easy one. We stopped by the First Tee of Jacksonville headquarters on Golfair. That was a cool stop because I got to see the facilities that help so many kids in our area. The First Tee is going to be a recipient of some of the dollars we raise from the auction.
Fred “Fredo” Olmstead - Fredo was a tough guy to track down. The former Vietnam fighter jet pilot was out of town for awhile during this second journey. What a nice guy. I caught up with Fredo as he was teeing it up early in the morning at Marsh Creek C.C.
Sam Jones - This was another memorable one. After going to Marsh Creek, I called up Sam because we had been playing phone tag. This was a Friday morning and I had to have the flags done by the weekend (in my mind). I get Sam on the phone and he’s leaving his house and headed for Miami. Oh boy - Miami! Jones is a big signature - top 50 NBA guy and a hall of famer. Fortunately, he had just left and met up with me at the Publix parking lot at the World Golf Village exit. Kind of ironic - the Hall of Famer signs at the Golf Hall of Fame. I asked Sam why he was going to Miami and he says the family is going on a week long cruise! Yikes! That would have been a disaster - just caught him in a the nick of time.
Tom Watson - Keep in mind folks this isn’t the famous Tom Watson. Instead, it’s a guy with the same name that plays out at Fleming Island. Mr. Watson may as well be from Sherlock Holmes because I’m still not sure what this guy does. He’s 80 years old and always on the go. I can’t confirm this but I’m pretty sure he didn’t want me to see his home. I said countless times that I could just stop by and he didn’t want any part of it. He was kind enough to meet me anywhere, but his schedule was busier than mine. We finally caught up at the Golf Club at Fleming Island. He’s an interesting guy - good guy - but somewhat of a mystery still to me and that’s OK.
Bob Wenzel - You know him as the former JU coach and a CBS basketball analyst. Bob also works at The Bolles School. He’s a fun guy to be around. I stopped by his office at the school and was having a good ‘ol time until my phone started to ring. Breaking news -- Urban Meyer resigns. Yup, it was that day.
Herb Peyton -- Folks are still surprised the Mayor’s dad even played with us on this project. I thought he was great and had fun. Most folks see the Gate Station mogul as such a serious man. I guess he is because this was a drop and go signing. I had to pick the flags up the next day at Gate Headquarters - nice building!
Billy McKenzie - He’s the cart guy at Timuquana. Another easy get and usually a Tim Tebow story to boot. Sorry, its off the record.
Landon Gentry -- The long drive champ made it easy on us. He came over to Everbank Field during a Jags media session and on his lunch break. That was nice.
Arnold Palmer - Alright, the mail thing didn’t workout so well the first time. Would you believe I did it again! I’m either trusting or stupid, but thankfully no problems this time. I made sure to overnight them to Orlando this time. I did learn one lesson -- don’t leave it up to the Orlando post office to get them back. This time I drove down to pick them up. Yeah two hours each way to pickup the flags. I had them in hand though and needed them the next day so I couldn’t wait on the mail.
Fred Funk, Leonard Thompson - The reason I needed the flags that day back from Mr. Palmer was because I knew these guys would be playing in a charity golf tournament the next day. It was the Jinglebells tourney and it was freezing cold. Seriously, it was 30 degrees with a biting wind. They were great and understood my sob story. It was a little awkward asking for autographs for a charity at a different charity event. Hey, no holds barred at this point folks.
Shannon Miller - The Olympic gymnast was really cool throughout this thing. She even acted as a psychologist to me at one point. In our email correspondence she wrote “take deep breaths.” I thought that was funny that she picked up on the rush to get this done through an email. I wonder what I said that tipped her off? I don’t get stressed out much - I don’t think! I stopped by Shannon’s house to get her signatures.
....drum roll please....
Davis Love, III - This was it, the last one to get. The reason everyone else had to get done in a timely fashion was to try to get Davis (he did our introduction to the 17th hole). Love was playing in Naples on the weekend, flying home Monday night and leaving the next day for Morocco (I think). I couldn’t get the flags overnighted in time on the weekend, so I drove up to St. Simon’s Island to drop the flags to his management company. It was kind of cool that they were going to fit this into his crazy schedule. In fact, they were planning on meeting Love at the airport Monday night and getting him to sign the flags on the tarmac. Check this out! They couldn’t get to the airport that night because of an issue at home with the kids. Uh-Oh, the last guy was leaving for Morocco in the morning and then he was off to vacation over Christmas with the family - never going to happen, but we caught a break. Love had his trip to Morocco postponed, the flags got signed and they even made it back to me in the mail! If that had only happened six weeks earlier!
That’s the story of the 2010 Dream 18 flags. The neat part about that second journey was to find out how good spirited all the folks were to help us help others. Hopefully, we’ll all pay that generosity forward and raise a lot of money for some super charities.