2014 U.S. Senior Open: Why volunteers are the lifeblood of golf events

For majors like the U.S. Senior Open, twice as many volunteers are needed. Of the 140,000 fans projected to attend the seven-day event that starts with practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, approximately one in seven will be a volunteer.
by Michael Baldwin Published: July 4, 2014
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— Doug Divelblist was a volunteer marshal for Ryder Cups at Valhalla in 2008 and Medinah in 2012.

Bill Kreilick has worked 20 PGA Tour events, including the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

Ken Crowell, of Tulsa, worked the monster 18th hole leaderboard at the 2006 PGA at Southern Hills.

Divelblist, Kreilick and Crowell are among 2,100 volunteers who have signed up to work next week at the U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National.

“One thing we always stress is we’re super thankful for each and every volunteer,” said Brianne Miller, U.S. Senior Open championship manager. “Without all these volunteers we truly could not put on this event.”

Eighty percent of the volunteers are local, including Tulsa golf advocates who have worked majors at Southern Hills.

But 20 percent of U.S. Senior Open volunteers, representing 31 different states, will travel to Oklahoma this weekend.

“A lot of them take their vacations just to be a part of this,” Miller said. “Some are retired. Many of those 200 to 250 people from across the country just really like golf.”

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any PGA event. For majors like the U.S. Senior Open, twice as many volunteers are needed.

Of the 140,000 fans projected to attend the seven-day event that starts with practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, approximately one in seven will be a volunteer.

“We’ve had a great response,” Miller said. “People in Oklahoma aren’t just nice, they’re genuinely friendly. We have no doubts these volunteers will represent this championship very well. I can tell they’re the type of volunteers that won’t let you down.”

A time-proven recruiting formula begins more than two years before a major championship. Miller starts the process by contacting local golf associations. The next step is conferring with volunteer groups in the area.

In Oklahoma City, hundreds have volunteered to work the annual Women’s College World Series or the Big 12 baseball tournament. Others have worked NCAA events like the recent wrestling national championships at Chesapeake Arena.

“There are a lot of volunteers to pull from in this area,” Miller said. “A lot of them have worked tournaments at Southern Hills in Tulsa or Gaillardia. The USGA also helps us recruit through their data bases.”

Placed on one of 15 committees, each volunteer receives one championship golf shirt, a championship windbreaker, a championship ball cap or visor, a water bottle and a credential valid for all seven days. During their shifts, volunteers are provided snacks, meals and beverages.

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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