"So we're walking down the fairway now," said Matthew Toenjes, coordinator of tournament operations for the Booz Allen Classic. He was standing still, surrounded by about 25 volunteers, each with a Palm Pilot in their hands. "Tap on player C again, and it will take you to shot four. It says, 'In the hole?' Say 'yes.'"
The volunteers dutifully tapped the hand-held gadgets with their pencil erasers.
"Player B hit his ball into the water, so now we need to assess his penalty," he informed the group later in his virtual walk-through. Toenjes, who travels to tournaments across the country with the PGA Tour, was responsible for training 300 shotlink volunteers for scoring the Booz Allen Classic.
"You guys have really got the best seat around," he continued. "You're going to love it."
ABOUT 1,000 VOLUNTEERS make the Booz Allen Classic possible, and they range in age from 13 to 91. Most come from Virginia or Maryland, particularly Montgomery County and Prince George’s County. The golf tournament is being held at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel through Sunday, June 25. It is expected to draw about 100,000 people.
Volunteer coordinator Ellen Cleaves estimated that most volunteers are in their 40s and 50s.
"We need volunteers during the week, and a lot of these people work, so they're taking vacation time and it's hard for them," she said.
"This year is the first year we've had to solicit for volunteers," said Cleaves. "In the past we've always had a wait list."
That may be partly due to a new $50 volunteer fee. The fee pays for a men’s or women’s blue volunteer polo shirt by Cutter & Buck (a $64 value), a hat or visor, a guest badge with Pavilion Club access, an additional guest badge, a round of golf at TPC at Avenel, one parking pass, and lunch in the volunteer tent on working days.
"I think if you're a golfer the most popular [volunteer jobs] are walking scoring, shotlink and marshaling, because they're all right on the golf course," said Cleaves. "Some volunteers take care of carts, and some in the tournament office answer phones, which is hectic but kind of fun and exciting. There are about 30 committees and they really run the tournament —— everything from program sales to the tournament office."
SHOTLINK IS the scoring system of the PGA tour, and walking scorers trail behind the players to record their scores in a Palm Pilot.
"Basically we walk along with the players with a Palm Pilot as they play the course," explained volunteer Nathan Sanfilippo of Germantown. "Their scores and statistics go back to the trailer so that there's live scoring."
This is Sanfilippo's first time volunteering at a golf tournament.
"I've always been a big fan of golf and seen volunteer opportunities at all the golf tournaments," he said. "Since this is the local one, I figured I'd give it a shot here before traveling to do it."
Mike Connors of Rockville has been a spectator at the Booz Allen Classic for the last 20 years. He and his wife Margaret Ann are veteran shotlink volunteers.
"It's fun to get behind the ropes," said Mike. "We get right up close to the players."
Volunteer marshals help to control the crowd of tournament-watchers and monitor crosswalks. They also watch out for wayward drives into the woods or water. Retirees tend to volunteer for this position.
Youth volunteers can serve as standard bearers. The 13- to 18-year-olds carry banners with the name and score of the players. They follow the walking scorers with an apron full of numbers in order to keep the public updated of the latest tally.
THE FIRST Booz Allen Classic — formerly known as the Kemper Open — was held in 1968, and it premiered in the Washington area in 1980. The tournament was held at the Congressional Country Club from 1980 to 1986 and then at Avenel starting in 1987. It has been at Avenel since then, except for a one-year hiatus in 2003, when last-minute sponsor FBR Capital held the event at the Congressional Country Club. Booz Allen Hamilton became the title sponsor in 2004.
In January, the PGA tour announced their new 2007 schedule, which moved the event to the fall from its traditional spring date.
"Right after that announcement, the title sponsor said they wouldn't renew their title sponsorship beyond 2006, so the management company is now searching for a new title sponsor for 2007," said Brian Bishop, spokesperson for the tournament. "The PGA tour still has a spot for the Booz Allen Classic, but it will have new name in fall 2007."
Join the Crowd —— If you want to visit the tournament during peak hours, plan to go mid-day (noon to 4 p.m.) on Friday and Saturday, or during the Final Round on Sunday.
Avoid the Crowd —— Plan to go between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Thursday and Friday.
Watching the Action —— Three suggested ways to watch the Booz Allen Classic are (1) follow a favorite player or group hole-by-hole; (2) bunker down at a popular hole and watch all the players come through; or (3) take in all the action possible by viewing a host of players at different holes.
Essential Items to Bring —— Don't leave home without sunscreen, hats, bug spray and comfortable shoes.
Prohibited Items — Leave your cell phones, BlackBerry devices, bags/backpacks, coolers, radios, “Hi Mom” signs and cameras at home.(Cameras are permitted on Wednesday but not the remainder of the week.)
Autograph etiquette —— Approach a pro for an autograph after he has completed his round, signed his scorecard and headed away from the 18th green and toward the Clubhouse.
Mind Your Manners — Be silent as each player prepares to swing and only walk on designated areas at the appropriate times.
Parking and Shuttle Services — Parking is included in all ticket purchases and is available onsite at TPC at Avenel. Shuttle service from the parking lot to the Tournament is available for handicapped persons and anyone else needing assistance. Remote parking with ongoing shuttle service is available Saturday and Sunday from the Marriott Headquarters in Bethesda and from Booz Allen Hamilton Headquarters in McLean, Va.
Tasty Treats — Check out the menu at the Grey Goose Pavilion Club, which features favorites like turkey club wraps, Thai noodle salads, Ocean City French fries and crab cake sandwiches.