Mr. Volunteer a Fixture Today for Championship Events
Ron Crow has been volunteering to work golf tournaments for so long that no one was surprised when he was tapped to act as general chairman of the U.S. Amateur Championship being held in Pinehurst.
No one, that is, except for Ron Crow.
"We were at a gathering after the USGA had announced that the Amateur was coming to Pinehurst and Mr. Padgett (Pinehurst Resort President Don Padgett II) called me into a room and said, 'You're going to be the chairman. Aren't you?'
"I said, 'Well, thank you, but I'll have to think it over.'
"And Mr. Padgett said, "Well, think fast, Ron, I'm making the announcement in five minutes.'"
So Mr. Volunteer, who has been doing just that in golf for 38 years, found himself with an office and a huge assignment, plus a more-than-capable volunteer chairman in old friend Al Warren. But despite the magnitude of the task, he was unfazed.
"By having been involved with the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Opens, we've formed some nice relationships with the USGA," he said. "The Opens and the Amateur take the same kind of organization as far as putting them together."
There is a vast difference in the numbers involved, of course, as far as spectators and volunteers are concerned.
"The Amateur doesn't require as many volunteers," he said, "because there aren't as many areas of need, especially as we get into the match play portion. The number of volunteers needed will be reduced drastically each day as the field is drastically reduced.
"You can see a significant difference in such areas as merchandise and gallery control. There is no merchandise area at all, and the galleries won't be nearly as large, of course. We'll need only a total of 250 marshals for the Amateur."
Despite having to sign on fewer volunteers, there was some concern because of a lower volume of persons seeking the positions.
"There were many more applications for the Opens," Crow said. "The primary reason was because of the number of tournaments in the area this year that required volunteers. We had the Junior, Senior, Men's and Women's North and South championships and several other events that taxed the base of our volunteer community. A lot of them were just tired.
"But one of the beauties in this area is that many of the volunteers are ready and dedicated to work as many tournaments as they can.
"We are very blessed in this area -- about a 75-mile area -- because of the number of people who have worked as volunteers and have a genuine interest in helping events to be successful.
"I often refer to them as 'professional' volunteers because they're here every time they're needed. That's a great fortune in itself.
"We're also very fortunate to have a professional staff at Pinehurst with department heads who are playing a bigger role in this event than in the past. If the staff and department heads had not worked as hard as they have, we would have needed another 250 volunteers."
Crow also considers himself blessed to have a chairman such as Warren, who has spent years volunteering at various levels and is dedicated to the cause.
"There are 15 different committees," Crow said, "and of those, 12 of the chairmen are experienced. That's important. Al has worked as a committee chairman in the Opens and we chose him because he's a good friend. We knew what we were getting."
There were 5,400 volunteers used during the 2005 U.S. Open and 2,800 for the 2007 Women's Open at Pine Needles. In contrast, approximately 690 will be working the Amateur.
"The enthusiasm among the volunteers is very strong and the key reason is that they're happy the event is in the area and they are a part of it," Crow said. "They want it to be a great success, so the enthusiasm is there. It gives them an opportunity to see some of the players who are the future of the PGA Tour.
"The fact that it's the U.S. Amateur, the greatest amateur event worldwide, makes it very, very exciting. Golf is really an amateur game and we'll see the best amateurs in the world playing together at one time.
"Volunteers have such pride that they'll always do their best at working together to make it a successful event."
Volunteers for the U.S. Open in 2005 paid $155 for a shirt and cap, meals each day and tickets all week on the days they weren't working. For the Amateur, the shirts, caps and meals cost $50.
Crow knows first-hand about the work and sacrifices a tournament volunteer makes and he appreciates what they mean to the success of any event.
"There's no way that I would continue to do what I have done and am doing in working events if not for the positive attitude that the volunteers offer," he said. "According to an article in The New York Times, volunteers save the PGA Tour $26.2 million each year. And that's based on having to pay workers minimum wages. By paying for their own uniforms, they save the Tour $5.25 million.
"This just drives home how important the volunteers are to the success of any tournament."
More like this story