My assignment at the PGA was on Hole # 8 Saturday afternoon & Sunday morning. That meant that on Saturday I saw all of the leaders go by, and on Sunday I saw players at the bottom of the leader board (though that included some big names).
Of course, the biggest story of the tournament was the play of Michael Block, a club professional (i.e., a teaching pro) who was near the top of the leaderboard most of the time. He fell back on Sunday, but wowed the crowd with a hole-in-one. I watched his approach shot that put him close to the hole, and the cheers for him were some of the loudest I heard.
As for me, it was an interesting and fun couple of days, despite Saturday's never ending rain. A few notes from my time there:
- Being a Hole Marshal has a number of dos and don'ts, the most important of which is to simply stay out of the players' way as they struggle their way around a very difficult course. For example, when I was doing crowd control around the green, I had to make sure to position myself so that I wasn't directly in the player's line of sight. Then, as soon as a player lines up his putt, I would raise my arms and face the crowd, sending them a message to keep silent. Thus, I never got to see if the putt went in, but merely waited to hear the crowd's reaction.
- Our Hole Captain very kindly made sure that we rotated through the 8 or 10 different positions around the hole. Thus, sometimes I was on the tee box or green, sometimes standing at the expected fairway landing zones, or handling the ropes at areas where spectators were allowed to cross the fairway when the coast was clear.
- It was this last assignment that gave me the best chance to eyeball some of the most famous (and infamous) players as they walked right by me after teeing off. There and elsewhere I was within yards of players like Jordan Speith, Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Jon Rahm and Tony Finau (a favorite of mine), as well as the infamous (i.e., LIV) golfers like Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Brooks Koepka (the ultimate winner).
- I had an especially close encounter with DeChambeau, whose drive went into the left rough where I was stationed. He looked to me for help and I pointed out where his ball had landed. I then stood directly behind him, arms raised, to quiet the crowd while he set up and swung. The force of his clubhead going through the thick rough was amazing, but his shot landed short of the green and trickled into a bunker.
- The shot of the day for me came as I stood behind the green when Zack Johnson's approach landed 10 inches from the hole. That's an automatic "gimmee" when I and my friends play, but Zach had to walk up and calmy tap it in for a birdie.
- A note about Saturday's weather. It rained heavily as I drove the 90 miles from home to Rochester, and while it eventually lightened up, the rain didn't stop until near the end of my afternoon shift. I had my rainsuit on and an umbrella, so I was usually comfortable. There were times when I had to drop the umbrella to do my job, and to avoid blocking the view of the fans, but overall I stayed dry. The amazing thing was how well these professionals perform in a steady rain, with drives still routinely passing the 300 yard mark.
- I'd imagined that there might be times when yours truly would appear on national TV, but that never happened. It's rare for a Marshal to appear in a shot, as the close ups are focused on the players. The one instance where this can happen is if a shot carries into the crowd and the Marshal has to take down the ropes and clear a space for the player to hit his shot. That did happen to me once on Saturday, but the player (Min Woo Lee) was so far out of it that the TV cameras weren't on him. So…my chance at world-wide fame eluded me.
- The PGA took wonderful care of all us volunteers. In addition to our credentials getting us into every day of the tournament, even when not working, there was a huge, air-conditioned tent with free breakfast, coffee, snacks and soft drinks available just for us. That included private bathrooms, not a small thing with crowds nearing 200,000 people wandered about.
It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and despite the long drives there and back, and the sketchy weather on Saturday, I wouldn't hesitate to do it again.
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NOTES FROM INSIDE THE ROPES
May 23, 2023