The water hazard on the iconic No. 17 “Island Hole” at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra, Fla., has claimed thousands of golf balls over the years and will do so again for this week’s PGA TOUR stop at The Players Championship.
– Matt Barrie on his email exchange with producer
For a feature to air during SportsCenter’s coverage from the event on Sunday morning, anchor Matt Barrie became part of a salvage crew for one day as he participated in a scuba dive to retrieve lost balls from the water on one of the most difficult Par 3 holes in all of golf. [SportsCenter has coverage from TPC all weekend.]
Barrie first heard of the assignment in an email from feature producer Jen Chafitz.
“The way she asked the question in the email was brilliant because all she asked was, ‘Have you been scuba diving, and are you certified?’” Barrie said. “And so my immediate response was yes, absolutely, have been numerous times. I thought this could be good, and she said she had an idea for a scuba feature for The Players, so without even asking what it was, I just emailed back and said ‘I’m in.’
“Then the next thing she tells me is we’re going to scuba dive the 17th with the guy who goes down there and gets the golf balls. And then I thought ‘What are we getting into here? Are there alligators?’”
– Barrie on the dive
For the feature shoot, Barrie and diver Scott Evans, who works for a company hired by TPC Sawgrass to recover lost golf balls, were equipped with GoPro cameras on their masks and wrists as well as diving masks wired for audio.
“I didn’t need the mouthpiece in the mask and that allowed us to do the interview with the diver and me underwater,” Barrie said. “We were down there for about a half an hour, just having a conversation underwater, looking for golf balls and finding a ton of them.
“You couldn’t see a thing,” he said. “If l looked straight ahead, it looked like chocolate milk. And I wasn’t allowed to wear gloves because my hands were essentially my eyes so I was just rubbing the bottom of the pond. My hands were rubbing against mud, mussels, shells and anything you can imagine that was down there. It was disgusting.
“I had a great time while I was down there and I was really into it, but then I went from the pond immediately to the clubhouse at TPC and showered off,” he said. “And later on my flight home that night, I had that moment of ‘Why did I just do that? I’ll never do that again.’ But it was fun while we were down there.”