Volunteers relish U.S. Open experience

Volunteers at Chambers Bay
USA Today Sports Images
Over 5,000 volunteers are working the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay this week, including roughy 4,000 from the state of Washington alone.
Jeff Graham
Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Friday, June 19, 2015 | 12:58 p.m.

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- Every hole at Chambers Bay Golf Course has a name, all 18 of them. The eighth hole goes by High Road Low Road.

The mammoth par-5, 614 yards in total, is home base this week for three dozen volunteers from Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton who are serving as on-course marshals at the U.S. Open Championship.

For the group, it feels like -- to put it in golf terms -- a hole-in-one type of experience.

"There are world-class players walking 10 feet away from you," said Michael Wray, a 68-year-old volunteer from Bremerton.

So how did this crew from Gold Mountain earn its eighth hole assignment? It was simply a matter of the United State Golf Association asking the club to supply volunteers, relying on past partnerships. Gold Mountain has hosted two USGA tournaments over the past nine years, the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in 2006 and the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2011, so this week's marshaling assignment serves as a tip of the cap of sorts.

In total, 5,254 volunteers are working Open week, including over 4,000 from Washington.

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"It's pretty impressive, the scale of the planning and logistics of the whole event," said Bremerton's David Stebor, a 55-year-old captain at Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue Station 51 in Silverdale.

Volunteers completed training sessions prior to the Open and forked over $165, which covered uniform costs (two blue shirts, a white hat and a rain/wind jacket). But this isn't an all work, no play scenario. Not by a long shot.

Volunteers work three or four six-hour shifts -- either in the morning (7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.) or afternoon (1:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) -- spread throughout the entire week. When volunteers aren't working, they're free to be spectators. It's a pretty good deal considering week-long fan packages were $450 and sold out well in advance of the championship.

"We can come all seven days," said Poulsbo's Patrick Miller, 51, who works at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

"It's a great way to watch the tournament," added Silverdale's Andrew Cole, 49, a government employee at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

Miller and Cole, who worked Thursday's morning shift on No. 8, said they take their job as volunteers seriously.

"One of the things that was driven home during our training is we should be mindful of the idea that folks are watching us," Miller said.

"We're not privileged spectators," Cole added.

Marshals work in groups of 13 -- there are four on each side of the fairway, three at the green and two at the tee box on each hole -- and responsibilities include quieting the crowd during play, finding errant tee shots and assisting spectators. Not that there are many of those on No. 8. It's one of four holes on the course that has no designated areas for spectators to watch the action.

"There are no people to marshal," said Gold Mountain men's club president Reinhold Schuetz, 63, who is volunteering this week with his wife Blair. "There is no way for the public to walk the hole. There is a hillside on the right and a hillside on the left."

One of the best golfers on the planet, five-time major winner Phil Mickelson, mentioned during his post-round press conference about how weird No. 8 feels considering marshals outnumber spectators.

Mickelson still came away impressed with the first-day crowd at Chambers.

"Golf spectators are probably the most dedicated fan when you think about it," Mickelson said. "Any other sport, you buy a ticket, you sit in a seat and you watch 100 percent of the action. In golf you buy a ticket, you've got to walk miles through rough territory and you see but a fraction of the event. So I give a lot of credit to the people who are out there."

This article was written by Jeff Graham from Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.