A dozen years ago, Sergio Garcia was not a fan of the Black Course at New York's Bethpage State Park or its patrons. As the gallery at the 2002 U.S. Open heckled the then 22-year-old Garcia for his pre-shot waggle, it caused him to offer a petulant response of the single-finger variety.
But much has changed since then. A more mature Garcia surprised the locals at the venerable Long Island public course a few weeks ago, buying a basket of balls on the range, handing out free TaylorMade drivers and balls and ambushing groups on the first tee with announcers, TV cameras and a gallery. It was part of the company's "Distance for All" campaign promoting its new SLDR S driver.
The day is chronicled in a company-produced YouTube video, but the biggest surprise might have been Garcia's engagement with the fans who once mocked him. There were handshakes, jokes and high-fives all around.