End of an era as Waterford Crystal is replaced at The Players

Tiger Woods among names etched on Waterford crystal prize which is being retired

Tiger Woods lifts The Players trophy in 2013. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty

Tiger Woods lifts The Players trophy in 2013. Photograph: Andy Lyons/Getty

 

Each year at The Players, as the destination of the title would near its conclusion, a different type of nervous anticipation unfolded behind-the-scenes as a master engraver dispatched from Waterford would work his magic to etch the name of the new champion onto a piece of the famous crystal.

That finely scripted name was such a part of the deal that the television cameras would focus in as the master craftsman went about his work in meeting a deadline. There was a beauty all of its own in how the name would materialise to add its own sparkle.

No more, though.

Webb Simpson didn’t know it at the time, but when he lifted the beautifully cut crystal trophy above his head as champion last year, he would be the last to do so. When the newest winner of the PGA Tour’s showpiece is presented with his trophy come Sunday, it won’t be crystal but a newly-minted, gold-dipped trophy designed by jewelers Tiffany.

Change comes to everything, yet there can be little doubt that the Waterford-designed Players trophy was iconic. As much as the obscene first prize cheque that worked its way into the winner’s bank account, it was the classic symbol of success for whoever was the last man standing in the PGA Tour’s showpiece tournament, as much a part of the TPC Sawgrass landscape as the island green at the 17th hole.

The Waterford showpiece - designed by chief designer Miroslav Havel - was first won by Jerry Pate in 1982 (the tournament was first staged in 1974 but moved to the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass in 1982, with the new crystal trophy signaling the new era) and has been lifted by, among others, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Rickier Fowler, Fred Couples and Greg Norman.

In all of the time that a little piece of Ireland’s finest workmanship was the reward for success, no Irish player actually managed to win. Pádraig Harrington came closest, when runner-up in back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004.

The iconic crystal trophy has been replaced by a new piece of workmanship which has been made of sterling silver dipped in 24 carat gold and which was “brought to life” utilising 3D technology and a process called electroforming. All of the championship winning names, dating back to Jack Nicklaus who first hoisted the original trophy in Atlanta in 1974, will be inscribed onto a base.

For Waterford, though, this week’s tournament marks the end of a long run as the symbol of The Players. The company still numbers the Solheim Cup and the Irish Open among its collection of golf trophies . . . but there was always something special about that engraving and subsequent lifting of the crystal trophy by the newest champion that set it apart.

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