One way that Junior Golfers can learn a lot about our sport is by volunteering at a Golf Tournament. There are many different volunteer jobs: Standard Bearer, Marshal, Cart Drivers, Shotlink, Walking Scorer and more. Watch the golfers and caddies as you volunteer and see the choices they make. You would also be doing the tournament a great service because Golf Tournaments can not operate without an army of volunteers.
There is a catch to volunteering: it can cost so technically you are paying to volunteer. But, there are many upsides to volunteering! You usually get a really nice, upscale golf shirt and hat as well as a free round of golf at the course you are volunteering at in the future. I have been able to volunteer without cost by my association with Atlanta Junior Golf and also Jason Dufner's Foundation sometimes offers free volunteering at the Barbasol in Opelika, AL.
At the 2017 Barbasol, I volunteered to be a Marshal. I figured I would be assigned a "Hush y'all" sign or gatekeeper of the ropes. I was assigned to the 16th green.
My day went well. I checked into the Volunteer Tent at 7am for my 9am shift. I got there early because I wanted to watch a couple of early golfers tee off. Also, the Volunteers are given a light continental breakfast. Once I checked in, I received my "Hush Y'all" sign.
I walked down to the 10th tee, watched a couple of golfers tee off, then walked down to the 16th green to setup. Since I was early, I got to see the PGA staff setup and install the hole for the 16th green. Pretty quick and easy! The ropes were not completely attached so I made sure they were all attached to the poles then I sat and waited for the golfers and crowds to show up.
I was marshaling on a Thursday so the crowds were really light. My main focus needed to be on all the golf carts for the volunteers, tournament workers and TV crew. These carts are constantly zooming around doing their jobs going from place to place. Only a couple of times did I have to focus in on a person or two that would not stop talking but they were always apologetic and instantly stopped talking. I was also responsible for keeping the path clear for the golfers to get to the next hole easily without distractions. No unauthorized pictures or videos were allowed and the golfers do not have time to stop and talk or give autographs.
It was a crazy hot day! The heat index was in the low 100's and I made sure to try to find shade when the golfer's were not on the fairway or green. For part of my morning shift, I had a partner. At Noon, she moved to the fairway to finish marshaling. I was suppose to be relieved at 12:30 but my replacement did not arrive until almost 2pm. It happens. Not a big deal. When my replacement arrived, I walked up to the volunteer tent, handed over my sign, grabbed a sandwich and water then went and watched the rest of the tournament. It was a great day!
The really cool and random thing that happened was when Cameron Tringale came through the 16th green. After he passed me on the way to the 17th hole, he tossed me a golf ball. This has never happened to me before when volunteering as a Marshal. Cameron is one of my favorites because he played for Georgia Tech. A class act! And he was killing it on the course that day!
If there is a tournament nearby, sign up and volunteer! They really need you!
Here are a couple of things to understand about being a Marshal, particularly at the fairway or greens:
- Always be aware of where the golf balls land. It is an unspoken job of the Marshall to spot any errand golf balls to keep the pace of play going.
- Do not talk to the players or caddies. They are working and concentrating.
- Stay out of their line and don't create a shadow where they need to hit or putt.
- Always use the "magic words" of please, thank you, etc when trying to get those in the crowd to stop talking. Sometimes people will not respond to your sign and you will have to speak up. Sometimes people think they are whispering when they are louder than they think.
- Make sure ALL golfers have finished before letting the crowd continue. A lot of times, the 3rd Golfer still needs to complete their hole but the crowd starts to move on. Politely, ask the crowd to remain quiet to let the Golfer finish.
- You are not there to watch the golf. You are there to work. But, there are opportunities to see the golfers as you work just remember your priorities.
- Always always be gracious. You are representing the Tournament.
Some General Tips:
- You will need to wear A LOT of sunscreen and bring it with you to keep applying throughout the day.
- Some tournaments allow you to bring a small cooler. I usually bring a couple of Powerades in case my Volunteer lead can't get back to me with refills. Some tournaments provide tons of drinks in coolers at the tees and greens.
- Don't use your phone when volunteering.
- Ask if a chair will be provided. If not, ask if you can bring one. Note: PGA bans chair covers.
Have fun! You are amongst great golfers!