Holding a “Quiet Please” sign on the PGA Tour is an exciting business. Whoever is fortunate enough to get the gig as course librarian could well find himself standing feet from Tiger Woods unwinding on his tee shot or John Daly throwing his clubs. These are the silent thrills that the volunteer marshals at this week’s U.S. Open will savor while trying to look serious for the television cameras. Their serious expressions may not betray it, but these soldiers of quietude know how lucky they are: The Open wait-listed 2,000 applicants for volunteer positions after they were already filled.
Turns out that getting the gig requires strategy, particularly when it comes to deciding what role to target in your application.
“While they may not be perceived as glamorous from the standpoint of not having the opportunity to walk inside the ropes or be inside the ropes, the other volunteers are every bit as important,” says Andy Baggs, who, as chairman of the 2014 Players Championship, helps recruit volunteers. “The people that are in course ecology and parking and construction and course prep and admission, they have a passion and love for being in that committee as much as the person does inside the ropes. A lot of that stuff is behind the scenes, so that when most people go to volunteer for a tournament, they have no idea that it even exists.”
Your chances of being accepted for service increase if you’re willing to work more shifts in more capacities. Not every volunteer gets a plum assignment and the ones that do tend to have earned it. Bill Kelley Jr., the marshal on the 18th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass’s Stadium Course, has 47 years of volunteering experience under his belt. As in every other career, promotions are hard to come by and dirty work needs doing.
The average PGA volunteer is a white-collar man doing blue-collar work for love of the game and to raise money for charity – while wearing a $200 Polo Ralph Lauren-designed uniform. Baggs and Co. raised $6.5 million for 300 Northeast Florida organizations with the 2012 Players and hope to have eclipsed that figure when all is tabulated for 2013.
“The motivation for most people is to enjoy golf and the camaraderie, but a lot of it is that they understand every hour and every minute that they commit to the tournament is making a difference in somebody’s else’s life,” Baggs says. “Think about it: When you have volunteers who literally pick up garbage on the golf course and park the cars and run the gates and staff the concession stands and work the practice range and marshal, it’s a significant savings that all goes back into the charity.”
And if charity isn’t enough, there is always the chance that you’ll get a great look at Rickie Fowler’s latest ensemble.