Looking for family fun? Make volunteering a golf tradition in your home

August 23, 2019

It’s 1986, high school graduation week. My father, Bob — briefly a Tour pro — and I volunteered at the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, near our home. As a standard bearer, I was paired on Sunday with Dave Eichelberger and Mark Calcavecchia. That’s a lot of letters to lug, but walking 10 feet from Calc as he shot a course-record 65 was unforgettable. Addictive, too.

When the Open returned to Shinnecock in 1995, I had another lucky pairing as standard bearer, with John Daly. Daly loved to chat, and he gave me an autographed Arkansas Razorback logoed ball that I still have.

Dad and I worked the leaderboards and driving range at the Opens at Bethpage in 2002 and 2009. He’d played the Black hundreds of times as a kid and in ’09 ended up in a 10-minute chat with Sergio García about where to best position drives on holes 2 and 7. Sergio paid rapt attention.

For the 2012 and 2016 Barclays at Bethpage, we drove players from the range to the clubhouse. This led to a memorable conversation with Jim Furyk’s father, Mike, who said that when Jim told his high school baseball coach he was quitting baseball to focus on golf, the coach replied, “Not with that swing!” I break out that story whenever I can.

We were back at Shinny last year, on the mobile device task force committee, trying to limit the crowd’s use of cell phones to take pictures. (Good luck!) It was another memorable Sunday inside the ropes, with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

What have I learned while helping out at tournaments for more than 30 years? That hosting these events is a massive job — truly, an impossible one without the dedication of giving people. While hobnobbing with the game’s elite (not to mention the front-row view and the swag) is a thrill, the best part is really the payback to a game that has brought our family so much happiness for so long.