May 23rd - 29th, marks the return of a Major championship - The 66th Senior PGA Championship - to Western Pennsylvania. The Championship will be held at scenic Laurel Valley Golf Club in Ligonier. Among the 156 legendary players eligible to compete are Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Gary Player, Fuzzy Zoeller, Craig Stadler and 2005 Champions Tour rookies Greg Norman and Curtis Strange. Hundreds of members of the national and international media will travel to the Laurel Highlands to cover the Championship, and NBC and ESPN combine for 14 hours of live television coverage.
To guarantee that the Championship's players, thousands of spectators and media enjoy their experiences in the Pittsburgh area, The PGA of America is enlisting the help of an army of Volunteers... Arnie's Army.
More than 1,200 adult (21 years of age and older) and 300 junior (13-20 years of age) Volunteers will be needed to assist with all aspects of the Championship. Volunteers work together in committees that are responsible for Marshaling, Scoring, Admissions, Player Transportation, Leader Boards, Tee Refreshments, Caddie Registration, Corporate Hospitality Services, and more.
"Without the help of our Volunteers, running this Major championship would not be possible," said Jeromy Manser, Volunteer Coordinator for the Championship. "Their commitment of time and energy is inspiring."
Adult Volunteers are asked to work four (4) four-hour shifts. The Championship is flexible in the scheduling of these shifts. "We recognize the fact that many of our Volunteers are employed during the week, so we coordinate with them on the scheduling of weekend and late afternoon Volunteer Shifts," said Manser. "Some Volunteers request to work all of their shifts on the weekend, others prefer to spread the shifts over the week." In addition, there are a few Volunteer Committees that offer Volunteers the chance to work shifts before the Championship even starts such as the Volunteer Uniform Distribution Committee.
No experience with the game of golf is necessary to volunteer. "Many people volunteer because they recognize what the Championship means to the community and region," said Manser. "An event of this magnitude will have a tremendous positive impact on the region's economy attracting visitors from around the world to our backyard. We are very proud of our community, and want all visitors to have positive experiences."
Of course, the majority of Championship Volunteers sign-up for one reason - to be a part of what is likely Arnold Palmer's final competitive event in his home State of Pennsylvania. They want the opportunity to march once more at Laurel Valley with their neighbors, friends and families as Arnie's Army. Palmer was born, raised and still maintains a home in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. He is a founding member of Laurel Valley, and has represented the Club as its Touring Professional for more than 50 years. He is a two-time Senior PGA Champion (1980, 1984), and is acting as Honorary Chairman of The 66th Senior PGA Championship. Palmer has earned the admiration of people in Western Pennsylvania not only because of his nearly 100 professional golf victories, including 7 Major championships, but also because he gives so much back to the community, remaining a good friend and neighbor. "Palmer is a hometown boy who has seen amazing, world-wide success, but he still remains so loyal to his Pennsylvania home," said Manser. "Palmer has touched so many lives here in Pennsylvania. It is amazing how many Volunteers go out of their way to tell stories of their positive encounters with Arnie."
The Senior PGA Championship travels to a new location in the United States each year. In 2004, the Championship was contested in Louisville, Kentucky, and the previous year in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. At each site The PGA of America sees a number of the same people sign up to volunteer. Manser said, "I like to call them 'Volunteer Groupies.' It shows how much our Volunteers enjoy the experience when they are willing to travel from site to site."
Set in Western Pennsylvania's breathtaking Laurel Highlands, the Club spans 260 glorious acres nestled between Laurel Ridge Mountain and Chestnut Ridge Mountain. Here, in this spectacular setting, Laurel Valley has realized the dream of its founders to become the ideal golf club, a course of unmatched strength and impeccable beauty whose intricate challenges are matched only by the timeless setting. With golf legend Arnold Palmer at the helm, Laurel Valley became nationally ranked, attracting the 1965 PGA Championship, 1975 Ryder Cub Matches, and 1989 U.S. Senior Open.
The PGA of America is the largest working sports organization in the world, comprised of more than 28,000 men and women dedicated to growing the game of golf. Founded in 1916, The PGA of America conducts four professional golf events: the Ryder Cup Matches, The PGA Championship, The Senior PGA Championship, and the PGA Grand Slam of Golf. PGA Professionals, who are expert instructors, skilled business people and community leaders, are the backbone of The PGA of America, and ambassadors of the game to the nation's more than 25 million golfers. The PGA of America also works closely with organizations such as the national Police Athletic Leagues and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to make the game accessible to many disadvantaged communities. More than 500,000 youths each year discover the game thanks to The PGA of America's programs such as Kids on Course, Golf in Schools and First Swing.