Marquee names like Palmer, Trevino and Rodriguez can guarantee atournament's success at the gate, but the successful running of a golf
tournament requires names like Kosch, Copeland and Detwiler.
Phil Kosch, John Copeland and Mary Detwiler were just three of the more than 750 volunteers who worked to make the weekend's GTE Suncoast Classic, at Tampa Palms Golf and County Club, run smoothly.
"I get to meet a lot of pros year after year and get to be recognized by them," said Kosch, 79, a three-year veteran volunteer who, though confined to a wheelchair for the past two years, works as a marshal thanks to his mobility cart. "Some, of course, are very gracious guys, like Palmer and Trevino. I get a thrill just being on the same cart path as people like that."
The volunteers are identifiable by their red, white and navy golf shirts, red sweater vests, and badges. Among the more popular jobs they hold are those of marshals, markers and greens reporters. Perhaps the least popular job is working in the parking lot.
"Three or four weeks ago, we only had a couple of committees open, including parking and shuttles," tournament coordinator Barb Jensen said. "Greens reporters and markers were the first committees to close."
Markers are the people who walk down the fairway and keep unofficial score and official statistics for the tour. Greens reporters call in the scores from each green to the communication center.
"It's more than just keeping score," John Mitchell said as he explained his duties as a marker. "We have to keep track of the number of fairways hit, the number of putts, the number of greens they hit in regulation, and the number of shots to the green."
Although markers must be knowledgeable golfers, they still go through a training session to make certain they know when a ball is on the green or in the fairway.
There is one other important condition: While the pros get to ride, the markers walk.
"If the pro rides, his caddy has to walk, so that makes it easier to keep up," said Detwiler, who also worked last year as a marker and plans to keep in shape to do the same next year.
"I'll keep up my daily walks so I can keep up with it."
Though marshals, markers and greens reporters get closer to the pros than do most spectators, none sees them as up-close as the volunteers working in the clubhouse. At the GTE, a men's tournament, the clubhouse job is open to men only.
"They are a great bunch of fellows, and they'll sit down and talk to you if they've got the time," said Jack Wade, a three-year veteran of the locker room. "You hear an awful lot of golf stories and jokes from the guys. Doug Sanders can sit there and tell jokes one right after another."
Not all the volunteers get to spend time with the pros. Volunteers on the finance committee rarely see the golf at all.
According to Charlie Bagby, a GTE volunteer on the executive committee who is in charge of the finance section, the finance group spends most of its time counting cash and tickets. The only time its members see the pros is when the golfers drop by to cash a check.
If you doubt Bagby, just ask Donald Norton, who worked in finance in 1989 but is working as a marshal this time.
"Last year, I didn't get too much time to go out (and watch)," said Norton, who celebrated his 75th birthday Thursday. "I like the game and like to see it played."
Volunteers are asked to do more than work the tournament. They are asked to make a commitment to work. Each must buy a shirt and sweater vest; the cost is $42 for men and $39 for women. In addition, each marshal must wear a hat (cost $6). The volunteers also are asked to work a minimum of three four-hour days.
"The fact they're making a commitment is a pretty good sign of their interest and abilities," Jensen said.
In return for their time and investment, each volunteer receives a package of perks: two season badges; lunch on the days worked;
preferred parking; an appreciation party Sunday, after the tournament;
and a round of golf at Tampa Palms.
Anyone interested in working as a volunteer at next year's GTE event should call the tournament office at 1-971-1726.