Volunteers key to tourney success

Posted 5/29/10

Imagine getting a front row seat to your favorite sporting event — completely free of charge. In terms of logistics, setting up for the Senior PGA …

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Volunteers key to tourney success


Imagine getting a front row seat to your favorite sporting event — completely free of charge.

In terms of logistics, setting up for the Senior PGA Championship, a four-day affair that brings out the best and brightest stars from the Champions Tour, is difficult to say the least. It requires thousands of man-hours from countless employees, everyone from score keepers to shuttle bus drivers to grounds crews. But perhaps the most important asset — and one of the key factors of a successful golf tournament — is a dedicated team of volunteers.

This year’s Senior PGA, at the sprawling Colorado Golf Club southeast of South Parker Road and Stroh Road in Parker, brought out nearly 1,500 volunteers, including about 130 from the CGC alone. Some traveled from as far as Rhode Island; others made the short commute from Denver’s suburbs.

Jenna Cowper, a sophomore in college, made the cross-country trip from Rhode Island at the urging of her college professors. She hopes to one day become a marketing guru for the PGA, and figured volunteering would be a good way to get her start.

She served as a standard bearer, or the person who carries the sign indicating which golfers are in the grouping. Cowper spent only two days on the course, but she gained some experience and, more importantly, she got her foot in the door.

“I’m interested in the PGA, so I want to see what it’s about and see if I’m still interested in it,” she said.

Kim West, a member of the Columbine Country Club in Littleton, invited a friend from the Atlanta area to join him and 36 other volunteers from the club to supervise the No. 1 hole. West served as hole captain, making sure the crowd was subdued for the players’ tee shots, and even shaking hands with the likes of Champions Tour jokester Fred Funk.

West’s friend, Stewart Blake, summed up his job duties in a few words.

“Primarily our job is crowd control, make sure there is no noise when the guys are hitting the ball and then help them look for balls if they hit a bad one,” Blake said.

West was also responsible for indicating a wayward shot with an emphatic wave of his arms to alert marshals further down the fairway.

Melodie Harris, of Denver, helped watch over the No. 9 green May 28, quieting the crowd with raised arms. The Pinehurst Country Club member had plans to bring her daughter to the course the following day so she could witness the action.

Some volunteers still had to pay money to get into the tournament, but as one man put it, “It’s worth it when you’re a fan and you don’t have anything better to do.”

Starr Campbell, who helped track the tournament leaders electronically from the volunteer tent, made the trip from Carmel, Calif., and helps out at about four tournaments per year. In a few weeks, she will serve as leaderboard chairperson for the U.S Open at Pebble Beach near her hometown.

Campbell has been volunteering at PGA events since 1989, and still has not lost the passion that made her join in the first place. The retiree has become such an integral part of operations, that she has gotten to know many of the players.

That is the ultimate perk for fans like Cowper, Campbell and West, who get an insider’s view of the action.

“You can see how fast their moods change depending on how they do,” Cowper said.

Blake, the Atlanta resident, is happy to get up close and personal with the players he watches on television, even though he would rather be participating.

“I was hoping to be playing with them at this time in my life,” he said with a laugh.


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