On any given day of THE PLAYERS Championship, you will see someone looking smart in a red blazer. These blazers are a coveted signifier of the Tournament Chairmen. Made by Premier Clothiers, a St. Augustine-based company owned by Tam Copenhaver, the red coats are identical. All are made of 100 percent lightweight tropical wool, have brass buttons, shiny and uniform in shape—and all are the exact same shade of bright red.
Above photo: Mike Hartley, 1998 PLAYERS Chairman
THE PLAYERS Championship Tournament Chairmen are nicknamed the “Red Coats” because of the red blazers they wear. The position must be earned through dedication and hard work, advancing up through the ranks of volunteer leadership positions every year at the championship. Red Coats oversee the legions of volunteers that help put on the PGA Tour event in Ponte Vedra Beach, and their bright blazers are instantly recognizable around the lush green TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course.
Before Tam Copenhaver (pictured) and his company Premier Clothiers began custom making the red coats, it was a hodgepodge of styles; everyone purchasing blazers from different vendors.
“The journey of becoming a Red Coat, you pay for that in volunteerism, which isn’t that glamorous,” Copenhaver says. THE PLAYERS volunteers do everything from serving as marshals to picking up trash or “you can be working in a parking lot in pouring down rain,” he says.
The championship has a different Tournament Chairman every year. The person slated to be the next year’s Red Coat is presented their jacket during a formal ceremony immediately after the winning golfer gets his trophy.
Once a Red Coat, always a Red Coat. They continue to participate in charity-fundraising activities and take part in Red Coat ceremonies for life. As such, they are frequently photographed, individually and together in a group. Today it has become a uniform, but in the early days of the Red Coats you would see a rainbow of red when they gathered together. The PGA Tour began contracting St. Augustine-based Premier Clothiers to make the bright blazers when the new clubhouse opened a decade ago. Prior to that, the Red Coats purchased their own coats, which meant “there used to be 15 or 20 different shades of red,” he says.
Michele McManamon (center) is the 2016 Tournament Chairman. Here she is flanked by the 2016 Vice Chairmen.
The tournament directed Copenhaver to create matching coats for all the chairmen, past and future. He secured a large amount of fabric from a mill in New Jersey, and re-fitted all Red Coats from prior years with new coats from that fabric. All of the coats are now custom made in Knoxville, Tenn., and the PGA Tour has paid for every red coat since, and will continue to do so.
Copenhaver fitted this year’s Red Coat, Michele McManamon, two years ago because Tournament Chairmen are named to the position two years in advance. This year he will make the coat for 2018. He is honored that his nationwide, locally based custom clothing business has a role at THE PLAYERS, even if they are as he puts it, “a pretty small part of it.”
This is true if you are just talking fabric and buttons, but what the blazer symbolizes is integral to the organization. Volunteerism is vital to the success of THE PLAYERS Championship, and the red coat is a gift to celebrate the dedication of those willing to put in the time.