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Going Inside the Ropes at Booz Allen Classic

1,200 volunteers carry signs, keep score and find what's lost

Teddy Lillie, a Walter Johnson freshman, dreams of playing professional golf. He’s been playing for 10 years, and is in his second year as a volunteer at the Booz Allen Classic.

“It’s really cool being around them and seeing how good they are,” Lillie said. “It’s pretty cool, because it’s my lifetime goal, playing out there.”

Lillie is one of 1,200 local volunteers who assisted this year’s Booz Allen Classic at TPC at Avenel June 14-20. Opportunities to stand several yards away from a PGA golf pro is one of the many incentives for the volunteers, who serve in one of 44 different committees, ranging from Marshals to Transportation to Day Care.

MIKE AND PHOEBE MANDERS, of Potomac, chaired the tournament’s Youth committee for the first year. Some Youth volunteers serve as standard bearers at Avenel, following each group of three PGA pros through an 18-hole round while carrying a sign with the players’ names and score.

“The kids are wonderful,” said Mike Manders. A highlight of this year’s tournament was informing a first-time standard bearer that he would be following the group with PGA pros John Daly, Fred Funk and Brad Paxon. The news quickly energized the student, who first seemed tired at the 6:30 a.m. check-in, Manders said.

Manders meets with each of the youth volunteers before they volunteer to explain rules and etiquette to the standard-bearers.

“They have to understand the scoring, what the red numbers mean versus the black numbers,” said Manders, and they must not ask the players for autographs, though they are welcome to accept it if the pro offers to do so. “You must let the pro speak to you first.”

The pros will take the initiative more often than not. “They’ll give you balls and sign them after the round,” said Connor Tendall, a Cabin John sixth-grader. Tendall was also invited to the players’ tent last year. “It’s kind of different. You’re standing next to a professional golfer, and you’re just picking out your snacks,” he said.

Wootton senior Jeremy Barr plays varsity golf, and being around the PGA pros is a learning experience. “I just like being able to walk with the players. You’re inside the ropes, and it's a totally different experience,” he said. “You can pick up some stuff, and also see the way they carry themselves after a shot. … They’re experiencing the same frustrations and joys we do.”

SHOTLINK HAS CHANGED many of the volunteers’ functions. A technological system that charts information about every golfer and shot in a PGA tournament, Shotlink provides information for television broadcasters and camera crews covering the event.

Full implementation of Shotlink has profoundly affected the Walking Scorers committee, chaired by Dot Gates of Bethesda since 1993. Gates described the former scorecards as being like “SAT” forms — scorers use a No. 2 pencil and fill circles on a form that is later read by a scanning machine.

Walking scorers now wear a seven-pound pack around their waists, including a walkie-talkie, a battery and, most importantly, a palm pilot. Scorers use the palm pilot to enter dozens of details about every shot taken by the PGA pros — their stance as they swing, and even the color of each pros’ pants and shirt (so TV broadcasters and technicians can recognize them from a distance).

“You have to know golf yourself, and it’s not as easy to erase something. … It’s something new, you always have bugs or things to get used to,” said Lorraine Hixon of Alexandria, Va., who along with her husband Bill helps oversee the walking scorers. “If you know what you’re doing, it’s all-inclusive.”

Walking Scorers used to be an all-female committee, but Gates began recruiting some men for the position when Shotlink was adapted. Younger volunteers are now attracted to the position, although some of the veteran volunteers are in their 70s. The seven-pound equipment pack begins to feel heavy after walking through 18 holes, and the palm-pilot technology can be a turnoff. “The younger people, they like it; they want to go out there,” Gates said.

Main Scoreboard duties have also changed with the technology. Bob and Dorothy Norton have been volunteering since 1987, traveling from Ocean Pines, Md. and staying in Potomac with Dorothy Norton’s daughter Carolyn Sarbacher and her husband George, both of whom also volunteer at Avenel . “We just love coming back. We look forward to it every year,” said Dorothy Norton.

Scores used to be telephoned to the Nortons at the main scoreboard, where a calligrapher would write the results on the board. Results now come in real-time to a monitor shared by the scoreboard volunteers. “Our job has been reduced considerably this year,” Bob Norton said.

OFTEN BEHIND THE SCENES, Wayne Dressler co-chairs the Booz Allen Finance volunteers, working under Financial Coordinator Caroline Mullenholz. With a background in accounting and a passion for golf, Dressler has been volunteering at the tournament for 20 years.

Finance helps with tournament ticket sales, preparing the consignment for pre-event sales, operating the will-call and ticket sales windows. “Each group must come back with money as well as tickets,” Dressler said.

While Dressler and others in the Finance department do much of their work away from the fairways, they still interact with many spectators, volunteers and tournament pros. “I just enjoy interacting with the people that run the tournament. They’re all super-friendly people,” said Dressler, who also likes meeting the pros. “I met Fred Funk, wished him luck and congratulated him on how well he did in the U.S. Open,” said Dressler.

The department provides a “petty cash” function, cashing small checks the PGA pros and caddies receive (not the purse the golfers win, Dressler emphasized).

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, PGA Tour events began requiring photo-ID badges for volunteers who work in close proximity to the pros. The Finance committee is the one that issues these badges to the volunteers.

BOB MITCHELL TRUSTS the honor code after two years of volunteering for the tournament's Lost and Found committee. Mitchell, a native of Vienna, Va., volunteered at Main Scoring for 12 years before the Shotlink technology phased it out of existence; this is his second year at Lost and Found. Working at a booth in front of the Avenel clubhouse, Mitchell keeps guard on car keys, sunglasses, umbrellas and other items spectators find on the Avenel grounds.

If items go unclaimed by the end of the tournament, Mitchell gives the items to the Avenel clubhouse — often it doesn’t reach that point, and the spectator will show up to reclaim the lost item. “We work on the honor system, Mitchell said. “If you come and ask for something, and it’s reasonable, we’ll give it back to you.”