EDMOND — 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.
Miller sometimes hears complaints that volunteers are required to purchase a $125 all-session ticket.
“Honestly, the cost of the volunteer package basically is the cost for the uniform we put them in,” Miller said. “We also throw a free party with complimentary food and beverages before the championship and they also get a merchandise discount.”
Volunteers who complete a minimum four shifts — 16 hours total — are eligible to play a round of golf on the course that will determine the champion of the 35th U.S. Senior Open.
“We were very fortunate Oak Tree National was willing to include that for volunteers who meet their obligations,” Miller said. “After the tournament they’ll receive a letter that will tell them how they can sign up. It’s definitely a perk. There are not a lot of people that get to play a course like Oak Tree National.”
Limited volunteer opportunities are still available for anyone who signs up before Monday’s first practice round (to sign up, go to www.2014ussenioropen.com and click the volunteer tab). The two biggest needs are access control and admissions will-call.
Miller and her staff have been rounding up volunteers for nearly two years.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” Miller said. “With so much going on here in Oklahoma City like the Thunder and the Women’s College World Series, some people needed to check their schedules before they committed.”
Miller, 28, doesn’t have a permanent home address. She moved to Oklahoma in September and has lived in an Edmond apartment for the past 10 months.
She spent the previous 12 months in Omaha, which hosted the 2013 U.S. Senior Open. After the tournament ends next week at Oak Tree, later this summer she’ll relocate to Sacramento, host of the 2015 U.S. Senior Open. Her boyfriend lives in California. Her family lives in Seattle.
“It’s a job that requires you to be on the road a lot, but it’s exciting to see different places around the country and experience different cultures,” Miller said. “You meet a lot of great people, some who are involved every year. After putting so much time into it it’s always exciting when the tournament finally gets underway.”