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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Cragun's 2016

Local Golf
July 22, 2017

RYDER CUP VOLUNTEERS - The Unsung Heroes To Ryder Cup Success
2014 Ryder Cup Volunteers Gear
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2014 Ryder Cup Volunteers Gear
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By R.J. Smiley

The unequaled success of the modern day Ryder Cup can be attributed to many factors.

The first of these factors is the natural rivalry that developed in the 1700's when the group of struggling, fledgling colonies fought to gain independence from Great Britain. Over the years, the European golf community was asked to join forces with the British to better compete with the American Ryder Cup team that had become dominate. The natural rivalry between America and her greatest allies has created a storied golf history.

The second factor is the worldwide television coverage. The Ryder Cup is watched by over half a billion golf fans. Even though the event is broadcast in many languages, the Ryder Cup could be a silent movie and still win an Oscar with the greatest golfers in the world competing in a team format. These golfers will hit golf shots off the best manicured turf known to man.

But the factor that is completely overlooked by the majority of Ryder Cup fans are the individuals, from every walk of life, who volunteer to join the Ryder Cup Volunteer Army. These volunteers actually pay a fee to purchase their uniform and become a member of the Ryder Cup Army. Make no mistake about it; each of the 4,000 volunteers who join this well organized army will complete one specific task during four, 4-hour shifts the week of the Ryder Cup. Those of you who were a member of the military understand the TO&E (Table of Organization and Equipment). The Ryder Cup is organized with that degree of detail. Every volunteer has a job description. Just like the military MOS. The difference, all Ryder Cup volunteers whether a committee chair or a bus driver gets paid exactly the same - nothing.

There are the typical rolls that we think of when the term "golf tournament volunteers" come to mind. We think of marshals! During the Ryder Cup, every television in the world will see a uniformed marshal (dressed in the specific tournament outfit) with two long paddles standing behind the golfer. These marshals signal the direction of the flight of the golf ball. This allows the volunteers, who marshal the fairways and crowd control and the ball spotters, to track and locate the golf balls. It is important that no spectator touches the ball or interferes with the actions of the players.

Then there are the volunteers who direct traffic flow at the various parking lots. These volunteers must have full control of every automobile that enters or exits the lot. Their job is to make sure that the space allotted for each auto is filled in a timely manner. They are taught to ignore insults and understand that everyone wants to get to the golf course ASAP.

Customer Service and First Aid are two very important job descriptions. These jobs require more pre-event training and a larger time commitment. Then there are the chauffer's who drive the buses filled with golf fans from the parking lots to the golf course - then bring them back. Many of these bus drivers are school bus drivers in real life.

Let's look just a few of jobs performed by volunteers that you did not even know existed.

Range Ball Sorting
Did you know that each golfer on the PGA TOUR and the European Tour play only a specific brand of golf ball. Example Titleist: The majority of professional golfers use a Titleist Pro V1 golf ball. But, there are two types of Pro V1 balls. There is the Pro V1, and the Pro V1x. Each ball has a different dimple pattern creating a unique spin rate. (Pros can tell the difference.) Then there are players who play Srixon balls; at least two varieties. Bridgestone has a few other varieties. In addition there are some new golf ball brands attempting to gain traction on the professional tours. These companies pay pros big money play their ball. Many TOUR Players who play on the Ryder Cup Team will only practice with his personal golf ball. Therefore, a team of volunteers is required to hand sort the practice balls used on the range. Once sorted the balls are bagged and labeled.

Courtesy Car Drivers
Drivers are needed to shuttle golfers and tournament VIPs from their hotels to the golf course and back. Courtesy drivers are also required for security people, government officials and celebrities who attend.

Volunteers Who Train The Volunteers
Long before the first golf ball is struck at the Ryder Cup, volunteer's committee chairmen help select and sort the volunteers into the various committees and job descriptions. On top of that, imagine the scheduling of the various volunteers. With 4,000 volunteers on 60 different committees, try to wrap your arms around the overwhelming job required to fill no-shows as well as the people who have to cancel because of an emergency.

With the current world situation, security during the Ryder Cup will be at an all time high. For over a year, members of the FBI, Homeland Security, Immigration and State and Local law enforcement officers and a team of Ryder Cup volunteers have been working to cover every base. The Twin Cities is a huge area. Ryder Cup fans will be coming by planes, trains and automobiles. The expected crowds of 50,000 people per day must be protected. Rest assured, for each security type person that you see during the Ryder Cup, there will be that many more that are invisible.

The Ryder Cup Security volunteers will be visible and friendly. Their immediate superiors will be quick to handle any small disturbance.

Being a Ryder Cup Volunteer is a cherished job. Over 20,000 submitted applications to work for free. However, the volunteers also get some benefits. They are allowed to roam the course during the event and qualify for preferred parking. They will remember the Ryder Cup for the new friends made during the week and they will wear with pride their uniform that only Ryder Cup volunteers possess. They will have unique stories that will be passed down to their children and grandchildren. "Remember when grandma worked at the Ryder Cup..."

In the best scenario - the vast majority of the 4,000 Ryder Cup volunteers will go completely unnoticed. If this plan runs true to course, the volunteers who would hold the army rank of captain or higher will be pleased. Their plans will have worked to perfection. The event will have been completed smoothly with the great players and the storied team captains being the focus of the event. The volunteers will be like stage hands in a Broadway production, The Unsung Heroes.

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