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Why Volunteer at a Professional Golf Tournament?

golf tournament

In my last post, I wrote about what it is like to attend a professional golf tournament. To summarize, it’s fun and you should absolutely do it! However, if you want to take the experience to the next level then I would recommend volunteering at a professional tournament near you.

It takes many people to staff a tournament. As you walk around you will obviously see the players and caddies, the tour officials, media, coaches, industry reps and others. But, you will see many other people filling various roles as well.

Did you know many of the people you see working at a professional tournament are actually volunteers? These workers are not paid by the tournament sponsor, the tour, or a network. They are local people, volunteering and working out of their love of golf and the experience of being there.

As you walk around some of the jobs you will see staffed by volunteers are:

  • Walking scorers – walk with a group capturing and entering scores into a hand held device. Request rules officials or other assistance as needed
  • Standard bearers – walk with a group carrying the portable scoreboard for the group
  • Admissions – sell tickets and distributes credentials
  • Merchandise – work in all the merchandising tents
  • Transportation – shuttle tournament guests and players as needed, drive the volunteer vans and on-course cart shuttles
  • Practice green attendants – assist players and caddies as needed, help with crowd control
  • Driving range attendants – assist players and caddies, answer crowd questions
  • Marshals – crowd control for spectators and players, spot balls for players
  • Tournament Office – volunteer in the tournament office helping with whatever is needed
  • On-course services – refresh coolers, deliver materials to course locations
  • Scoring – validate scores, update computers, communicate with the walking scorers

I have been fortunate to volunteer a few times for the Kia Classic, a Southern California LPGA tournament. Mainly I have worked as a walking scorer but also served as a Marshall a couple of times. I’ll focus on that the rest of the blog.

I like the scorer’s job because I enjoy being out on the course with a group of players, observing up close their approach to the game and the different situations (and emotions) encountered during a round. For the most part, you remain in the background unless something is asked of you, like calling a rules official or you help in looking for an errant shot. You have to pay close attention to, and mark, each shot, keep your standard-bearer updated and call in scores for each golfer after every hole. The standard-bearer updates the sign with the players names and score so the gallery can see their current score as you come up a fairway or approach a green.

Working as a Marshall I’ve been assigned to a hole for the day which I also found enjoyable. I split my shifts working the green half the round and the tee box the other half of the round. That gives you the opportunity to see many of the groups come through and observe their shots up close. You can also watch the golfers interactions with the crowd as they come through each hole. It is you who is responsible for keeping the crowd quiet and still while the players are hitting their shots and getting the plays in andd out of the hole in an efficient manner.

You can work as many days as you like, including helping out during practice rounds and the pro-am, in addition to the tournament. The players I have had the opportunity to work with have been pleasant for the most part and appreciative of the volunteers. I have had players who have had bad rounds or holes be in rather bad moods, but as golfers, I am sure we can all relate. I know I’m not the friendliest person after hitting one OB either. Plus, they’ve never directed their frustrations at me.

If you have the chance, take the plunge and volunteer. If you don’t know what tours are out there, read my blog, “Just How Many Golf Tours Are There?“, then visit their tournament websites. If you like golf, you will enjoy the experience regardless of your volunteer role. And they can really use the help!

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Tips From the Gallery (or Why You Should Attend a Professional Golf Tournament)

If you’ve never had the opportunity to attend a professional golf tournament, I highly recommend it. If you’re a fan of golf there is nothing like seeing the best players in the world up close and personal. It’s a whole difference experience than what you see on Golf Channel or the networks. I’ve had the opportunity to attend the US Open, the LPGA KIA Classic and the Toshiba Classic PGA Champions events. If you have the time, I would suggest taking in multiple days, at least one tournament round and one practice day.

Depending on the tournament you attend, the crowds will vary. A PGA event easily has the largest galleries, and if it’s a major (like the US Open) then they’re even larger. If Tiger is playing the gallery following his group swells accordingly. That means you need to plan ahead. Look at the pairings to see which groups are in a string you want to see. Then park yourself in a grandstand or next to a green and watch 3 or 4 groups come through. Then strategically move to another hole on the course and do the same thing. If you can find a hole where you can see a tee box and a green from one spot, you’re golden! I’ve seen many folks bring portable stools they can carry from hole to hole. The galleries for LPGA or PGA Champions events are smaller, which means you can get closer to the action on each hole. You don’t have always need to map out where you need to be to see your favorite player. You can simply follow a group from hole to hole, or park and watch groups come through when you get tired of walking. Then jump ahead 5 or 6 holes and do it again.

When you attend a tournament, remember these players are out there trying to make a living. There is money on the line with every shot, so be considerate. Here are a few simple things you can do to make it more enjoyable for you and the players:

  • When a player is setting up, putting or swinging, no moving around or talking!
  • Wait until the swing or stroke is finished to take pictures or yell encouragement.
  • Put your phone on mute and/or vibrate. That includes the camera sound when taking pictures.
  • Wait until all the players in the group putt out before moving around the green or running to the next hole

If you want to say hi to a player or ask for a ball, catch them as they move between holes or are entering the tee box. However, realize if they just bogeyed the previous hole, they may not be in the friendliest mood at the moment. So try again later.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed is watching the players in the practice areas. It’s a fantastic learning experience. Stand around the practice greens and you will be up close to the pros as they practice and warm up. You can watch the different putting drills they go through to improve their stroke. You’ll also see the practice aids or golf gadgets they use. Alternatively, walk over to the chipping area and do the same thing, observe and learn as they go through their various pitch and chip drills. Here again you’ll find various golf practice aids in use. I find the range a bit boring but you can pick up tips there or just marvel at the consistency the pros have. They will hit shot after shot on the same track. At the US Open, I recall watching Vijay Singh warming up and something about what he did struck me. After each shot, he would move back just a little bit. He ended up cutting these long straight divots into the grass. Since then I’ve tried to emulate that when I warm up or practice. It gives you a good indication if you are coming through the ball the same way every time.

As I mentioned above, if you have the time, take in a Tuesday or Wednesday before the tournament begins. The pros are practicing on these days and the Pro-Am may be going on.  The atmosphere is far more relaxed and the golfers are more willing to interact with the fans. You might even score an autograph or a selfie if you ask.

If you like professional golf, I strongly recommend going to a tournament. Check the various tour schedules (and there are a lot of them, see my previous blog) for a tournament near you and get out there! In my next blog, I’ll take a look at volunteering at a tournament.

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