When the PGA Championship comes to St. Louis, an army of volunteers will help
In the midst of receiving thousands of email registrations from prospective volunteers for the 100th PGA Championship, Caley Beacham received a lone hand-written letter from Ireland.
Three golf aficionados were asking for spots among the roughly 4,200 people who would be needed to donate their time next month at Bellerive Country Club in Town and Country. They included their golf handicaps and the frequency of the rounds they played in an attempt to prove their worth.
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Beacham, who is the volunteer operations manager for the PGA Championship, obliged by giving them spots among the 1,841 marshals who will be positioned throughout the course.
Filling the necessary positions was not a problem. A major PGA event has international allure. When it's the centennial celebration, the attention becomes more intense.
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Championship play runs Aug. 9-12, but many volunteers will be needed starting several days earlier for practice rounds.
The number of applicants exceeded the available spots in about five weeks. Volunteers will come from Missouri and at least 40 other states as well as Ireland and several other countries to participate in one of the biggest sporting events ever held in St. Louis.
"The U.S. Open has a few more volunteers, but this is about the largest we've had," said Jeannie Dieffenbaugher, who is manager of volunteer operations for the PGA. "For a normal Ryder Cup we have about 4,000, so there are a few more for this event. It was absolutely one of the fastest we've had fill up."
Since last summer the work has focused on the logistics of organizing such a large group of people. The undertaking is so massive that the PGA has had Beacham working at Bellerive full time since May 2017.
The culmination of that work started last weekend when training sessions were held at Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School for those within driving distance.
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Boxes stuffed with shirts, hats, jackets, credentials, instructions, parking passes and meal tickets were distributed by -- who else -- volunteers. Training sessions were broken down for the nine committees. They will follow up with on-site training before the event.
Beacham spent 17 days last year at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C., to observe the entirety of volunteer operations at the PGA Championship.
"I'd say the biggest thing is just all of the little things," she said. "The goal at the end of the day is that no one notices us. The less people realize the volunteers are there, the better we're doing our jobs. That's kind of what it comes down to."
Classifications of volunteers include admission sales and will call, championship shop, contestant evacuation, laser operations, leaderboards and thruboards, marshals, tee refreshments, transportation and volunteer services. Most of the committee leaders are Bellerive club members.
Volunteers will range in age from 16 to a 91-year-old marshal. Marshals, who will be spread across the 18 holes, account for the largest number. Most come from area golf clubs.
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They were the most highly sought positions because of the proximity to play. These volunteers will work on the course, inside the ropes. The number of marshals on each hole depends on its length. There will be 25 working No. 18, where there are three grandstands.
"They monitor the spectators and make sure they're quiet," Dieffenbaugher said. "They're inside the ropes where the action is, so it's one of the most coveted."
There will be 825 volunteers assigned to the PGA shop, which will cover roughly the size of a football field.
Most of those giving their time will be in plain sight. Many won't. That is the case for those helping in the day-care center with the golfers' children or those assigned the task of evacuating the participants in the event of bad weather.
Beacham said there was also a high volume of requests for laser operators. These volunteers will sit along fairways and greens and use lasers to measure the distance of balls from holes. They will work some of the longest shifts, staying in place for up to eight hours.
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Most volunteers will work four, four-hour shifts. They will start as early as 5:30 a.m. because some golfers will begin play before 7 and crowds will already be on the grounds.
Among the busiest on the course will be those tasked with keeping tee refreshments stocked for the players. They will need to know the specific spots -- 40 in all -- at each hole and along the course for drinks, and keep them replenished.
There was a list of about 150 people on a waiting list about three weeks before the PGA Championship. Beacham had started to get some cancellations from volunteers who had unforeseen issues. The local staff had to put about 400 boxes in the mail for people coming from more than 100 miles away.
But for the most part, a year and a half of work has produced a plan that is about to be executed, organizers hope, without a glitch.
This article is written by Stu Durando from St. Louis Post-Dispatch and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.