|Gail Perla Leads Nearly 1,000 Volunteers For The American Family Insurance Championship|
|AmFam Championship Volunteer Coordinator Gail Perla|
|AmFam Championship volunteers with Gail Perla at left and winner Kirk Triplett in center|
By Janet MastersWhen spectators arrive for the second PGA TOUR Champions American Family Insurance Championship, they will be greeted by nearly 1,000 friends - enthusiastic volunteers united in their goal to make the fan and player experience special.
Tournament week for the American Family Insurance Championship at University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, begins June 19. The official 54-hole tournament starts Friday, June 23, and concludes on Sunday, June 25.
While players get the spotlight, PGA TOUR officials say a tournament's success rests on the volunteers and their coordinator. They are the unsung champions, the people who touch nearly every important logistic: Managing the driving range, reporting players' scores, marshalling each tee box, fairway and green, toting walking scoreboards and more.
At the American Family Insurance Championship, the volunteer coordinator is Gail Perla, whose experience on the job is only matched by her passion for the responsibility and other volunteers with whom she works.
A Golf Lover Lands Dream Job
Gail can tell you when her love affair with golf began. It was not long after she got engaged to her now husband, a golfer at Marquette University at the time.
"He told me if we were going to go through with marriage, I needed to learn how to play golf," Gail says. Before she received her engagement ring, Gail got a brand new set of clubs and a bag.
Gail and her husband were members at Tuckaway Country Club in Milwaukee when she became friends with a member who helped organize an annual PGA TOUR event at the club, the Greater Milwaukee Open (GMO).
Gail signed up as a GMO volunteer and eventually became chair of the tournament scoring committee. Later, the GMO's director put her in charge of overseeing all volunteer committees.
When the GMO ended in 2009, Gail became a volunteer coordinator without a golf tournament. That changed, however, when American Family Insurance, also Gail's employer for 35 years, signed on to sponsor Wisconsin's first-ever PGA TOUR Champions event.
When the sponsorship was announced, Gail was so excited she sent an email to American Family Insurance CEO Jack Salzwedel asking if she could be involved in the championship. Tournament organizers quickly made her the volunteer coordinator.
Gail has never looked back on her decision to take up golf. She also never imagined she'd get the opportunity to use her love of the sport to support her own company's success with a pro golf event.
"American Family's purpose is about helping our customers pursue and achieve their dreams," Gail says. "This is a dream come true for me."
"I'm proud to lead a team of such dedicated volunteers," says Gail. "This tournament couldn't run without them, and our group for the inaugural AmFam Championship in 2016 was fantastic. They worked in so many different capacities to make the event a tremendous success, and were wonderful representatives."
Here's what some volunteers said about their experiences:
Marty Bell, Walking Scorer
"This was a great opportunity to participate in a worthy charitable event and be able to watch fantastic golf. Although it's a competitive event, the players interact with the crowds and they appreciate the support of the volunteers and attendees. And host (and player this year) Steve Stricker is a first-class individual!"
Tom Rivers, Honorary Check-In-Person
"My wife, Carol, and I are still actively involved with AmFam after being retired for two decades. We feel volunteering is a great way to give back to the company for our wonderful careers we so thoroughly enjoyed. Our responsibilities were to check those scheduled to be honorary observers, who were able to walk inside the ropes with the pros, caddies, etc. On Sunday, due to an absence, I had the honorary observer designation, so I was with winner Kirk Triplett and two others at the top. Such a great experience! We're already signed up for this year."
Tom Vitale, Standard Bearer
"As a proud AmFam employee and huge golf fan, I was able to support the inaugural AmFam Championship while getting to watch the best Champion's tour golfers. On a scale of 1 to 10, my experience was a 100! I carried the live scoreboard for the golfers you're teamed with for the round. I was lucky enough to be selected as a standard bearer for the celebrity foursome event, so I walked with Mark Tauscher, Andy North, Steve Stricker and Brett Favre. I absolutely will be back in 2017!"
Rick Webster, Marshal Chair
"I volunteered because I worked as a marshal and security at the Greater Milwaukee Open with Gail, and she asked if I would want to serve as the marshal chairman. The experience was fantastic. I was involved in everything from working with PGA officials, scheduling marshals, crowd control, delivering lunches and water to the marshals, alerting medical personal on emergencies, to player requests. I joke that I have never worked so hard in my life (usually getting to the course at 4:30 a.m. and getting home after 9 p.m.), but it was a blast - pure adrenaline rush. I talked with PGA course directors who said no one would know this was a first-year tournament. They were very complimentary about the volunteers, the event organization and the crowds. They said the AmFam Championship was one of the best-run tournaments they'd seen. I can't wait for 2017!"
New For 2017 - PGA TOUR Volunteer Challenge
The American Family Insurance Championship raised nearly $1.1 million dollars for local charitable organizations in its first year. In 2017, the American Family Insurance Championship is asking volunteers and fans to participate in a friendly voting competition to raise even more dollars for charity.
To participate in the Volunteer Challenge sponsored by Myrbetriq, volunteer teams ask supporters to vote for them as their favorite tournament volunteer team. The team with the most votes on Saturday, June 24 is named the winner, and earns the opportunity to donate $10,000 to their designated charity. The American Family Insurance Championship can also raise bonus funds for charity (up to an additional $55,000) based on the total number of votes earned collectively by volunteers and the tournament. Those who don't know a volunteer can still vote for the American Family Insurance Championship.
Select the American Family Insurance Championship
Select VOTE NOW
SELECT your favorite volunteer, volunteer team or vote for tournament
Remember to validate your vote by checking your email
Information on the Volunteer Challenge is also available at the tournament website: www.amfamchampionship.com.
American Family Insurance Championship Quick Facts:
When: June 23-25, Friday through Sunday.
Where: University Ridge Golf Course, Madison, Wisconsin.
Format: 78 players compete in a three-round, 54-hole tournament.
Defending champion: Kirk Triplett.
Tickets are available at www.amfamchampionship.com, with special discounts for purchases now through June 1. Select the Tickets link at the top of the home page for more information.
2017 Volunteer Sign-up
The response has been extraordinary, so those still interested in volunteering for the 2017 event will be wait-listed. To be added to the wait list, visit the tournament website and select Volunteer at the top of the home page to register.
Follow American Family Insurance Championship on Twitter: @amfamchamp; Facebook: American Family Insurance Championship; and Instagram: AmFamChampionship.
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