Dedicated volunteers are the secret to The Wyndham Championship's success.
There's no question that the weeks leading up to the Wyndham Championship bring “Tour fever” to Greensboro — a city that fully embraces all the fervor that comes with some 150 world-class golfers. Traffic signs go up, hotels and restaurants brim with fans, and even the local weather is projected on Sedgefield Country Club’s vibrant, velvety greens.
But behind the scenes, the gears that power the week-long festivities aren’t as visible. Far beyond club and event staffers, it takes an army of 1,600 local volunteers to make sure professionals and spectators alike enjoy the Wyndham, twice named the PGA’s most fan-friendly event. Since 2008, Bill and Donna Richardson have volunteered alongside fellow Sedgefield Country Club members to man the ninth hole gallery, undoubtedly one of the course’s busiest due to its location just behind the clubhouse.
With his tenure, Mr. Richardson now coordinates the volunteer effort for this area of the course. “We enjoy working with the people, and having the same folks back year after year to serve,” he says. “They’re so cooperative and willing to help, it makes the job easy.”
When you think of a tournament volunteer, the first image that pops into your mind is probably a tall, slender sign reading “Quiet.” That, and perhaps a guilty flashback if you happen to have been on the receiving end of a stern “I know you know better” glance when speaking too loudly while players are on the green. Lest we forget, these subtle enforcements preserve golf fans’ ability to be up-and-close with the players. After all, in what other sport can you get close enough to watch the muscles tense in your hero’s arms right before he sends a perfectly connected tee shot hurling down the fairway?
But there’s a lot more to being a volunteer than crowd control. Kellie Rhoney, the volunteer coordinator for the Wyndham Championship, has an intimate understanding of just how much they contribute. “Volunteers play a vital role in every aspect of the tournament, whether it’s preparation prior to the event, gallery control, tear-down after the tournament, or even operating ShotLink,” she says.
Yes, those tripods you see along the fairway are also staffed by volunteers and, thanks to recent tech advancements, shot distances are now measured with digital prowess. The ShotLink System uses lasers and 3D mapping software to calculate how far the ball travels and gives fans fast and accurate stats for each shot a golfer makes on each hole. This data is then electronically sent to scoreboards throughout the course to ensure fans don’t miss a minute, or an inch, of the action.
To operate the system, volunteers undergo a specific training regimen, and this skill then becomes their discipline moving forward. Formerly, shot distances were recorded by hand and manually populated to scoreboards, which took considerably more time.
With all the moving parts and know-how involved to seamlessly power such a large event, the value of these volunteer forces is immense. Rhoney eagerly shares her gratitude. “I wholeheartedly believe that volunteers are essential for the success of the Wyndham Championship. It would be nearly impossible to run the tournament without them. We are very appreciative of the dedication and hard work that our volunteers put forth, and I consider myself lucky to have such a great group who is determined to make the Wyndham Championship a great experience for all.”
So remember to give them a quick “thank you” while enjoying the tournament this year. Their passion for the sport is a big part of what keeps Greensboro a golfing town, and the Wyndham Championship right here at home.