This past week I had the opportunity to attend multiple days at The Barclays PGA TOUR event, the FedExCup event at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, NJ. I have attended many sporting events in my life both for work and for pleasure. This event ranked high on my list as one of the most memorable, due to the incredible seats and access I had. Here’s the kicker, I simply had a regular grounds pass ticket!

To compare a PGA TOUR event to an MLB game or NFL game is unfair. They just are not the same. However, I concluded that the average ticketholder at The Barclays receives one of the best overall event experiences compared to what I am used to seeing in other professional sports. Some of the highlights from my experience are listed below.

Access to the players
Never have I been so close to the play and the players during a live sporting event. My first encounter was at the driving range. Where I stood was the equivalent of being 10 feet behind the batting cage during batting practice. I could hear the players talking to their caddies, I watched them analyze their divots and could tell that they hit the ball MUCH better than myself and the other fans around. Throughout the event one could be steps from the tee box, fairways or greens. It was not uncommon to have the players give high-fives as they walked from one hole to the next. Imagine that, interacting with a player in the middle of the event! In one instance Brendon DeJonge miss-hit a ball that landed very close to me. I was able to watch his next shot from no more than 4 feet away. I can’t compare that to any experience I’ve had as an average ticket buyer in another professional sport.

Seating availability
This is actually an unfair way to compare golf to other sporting events. A PGA TOUR event has approximately 7,000 yards of “seating” availability at its disposal. The Barclays positioned grandstand seating at most tee box and green areas for the average ticketholder to use. The positioning of these seats was the equivalent of being in the first 20 rows of a stadium. These were amazing sightlines and anyone could sit there. No need for preferred tickets or a VIP package. It was first-come first-served but it was very common for people to sit for a little bit and then move on to watch another hole.

MasterCard Sponsorship
I was very impressed with the activation by MasterCard throughout The Barclays event. This included signage at all points of sale informing me of a 10% discount just for using my MasterCard. That’s just about $1 off for a beer…don’t mind if I do! I also enjoyed the MasterCard Club, a hospitality area with food and beverages for any MasterCard holder. Throughout the course you would see many spectators with MasterCard credentials or wristbands giving the impression that MasterCard provides elite access. I’m sure many attendees were looking for their MasterCards. Kudos to MasterCard for thorough activation.

Birdies for the Brave
I have been fortunate in life to know many friends/family who have served our country and I have tremendous respect for them. I attended The Barclays with both my father-in-law, an Army veteran, and his life-long friend, a Marine veteran. We came across the Birdies for the Brave hospitality tent and it had a big impact on their experience. I give this organization and the PGA TOUR tremendous credit for dedicating space to making military personnel feel appreciated at such a prestigious event. They were proud to walk into the Birdies for the Brave hospitality area, shake hands and feel at ease among other veterans and fans in the area. I am going to guess that 1,000 individuals walked through that area on a given day and all were made to feel deeply appreciated. A year from now, my father-in-law is more likely to recall Birdies for the Brave than Hunter Mahan (2014 winner).

The Barclays was an amazing event. I couldn’t get over how my experience felt “premium” without having to have a premium ticket. It also didn’t hurt that the weather was spectacular (low 80’s in August). I left The Barclays event very impressed and looking forward to coming back next year.