Since Adam Esslinger was a toddler, there have been two constants.
His aspirations to become a firefighter, just like his dad.
“I’ve got pictures of me as a little kid crawling out of fire trucks. We always knew that was the dream," the 13-year, JFRD veteran told First Coast News recently. "But my dad introduced me to golf when I was about eight. He was a firefighter also, so it was something he did on his days off as a release."
And as Esslinger grew older, golf became something father and son did together.
"Playing golf, going to Jaguars games. I kinda feel like I'm following in his footsteps in a lot of ways. I kinda feel like I'm 'reliving' his life because that's something we've always bonded over. Sports is a huge thing in our family.
"We almost have more of a best friend relationship than father-son relationship."
As long-time Jacksonville residents, Adam, his father, and their entire family have been frequent visitors to TPC Sawgrass over the years; they've been attending The PLAYERS Championship for decades. Unfortunately, because of this year's limited-capacity (tickets sold out in a matter of minutes) combined with Esslinger's work schedule, they were not able to secure tickets for the 2021 tournament.
That is, until last week.
March 3 was like any other day at Station No. 17 on the westside of Jacksonville. Captain Esslinger did know that a news crew would be interviewing him -- something about being a "first responder honoree" and maybe a question or two about being a scratch golfer.
He did not know that, midway through the interview, representatives from the PGA Tour -- including U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk and his wife, Tabitha -- would be surprising him at the firehouse. They came bearing a cooler of gifts from The PLAYERS Championship... and then Furyk revealed a pair of tickets to Friday's second round. With Esslinger's name on them.
One problem: Esslinger was scheduled to work Friday.
"Chief?!" Esslinger immediately looked at his superior, as the rest of the group laughed. Needless to say: the schedule was able to be shuffled a bit. Esslinger immediately told the assembled he planned on bringing his wife, who helped arranged the surprise... but it turns out it will be his dad who will accompany him to TPC Sawgrass.
"She knew Pops would enjoy it more," Esslinger smiled.
So it'll be father-and-son, together again at TPC -- one year after they were at The PLAYERS Championship practice rounds, with no idea a pandemic was looming. No idea the challenging year they'd face as essential workers; Esslinger's father is retired, but he still is a constant figure at the firehouse.
Beyond putting a smile on a golf fan's face, that part of it is not lost on Furyk.
“You know we have so many wonderful people in our community and so to reach out to one of our first responders, someone who means a lot to the community – it’s an honor for me to be here and represent the PGA Tour.”