Approximately 1200 people are volunteers for the Dell Match Play tournament. Their contribution to the success of the event is significant because they all work anywhere from 25-50 hours prior to, during and after the tournament. Do the math and you have a lot of hours from a small army of workers whose only compensation is a uniform, access to the event and an appreciation party. Why do they do it?
I interviewed a few volunteers and asked about their role and their experience. The one common thread is that they all love being here and being part of the tournament. However, there are added reasons for each of the volunteers I spoke with.
Bruce Ezell, who is a member of Austin Country Club, coordinates the volunteers that run the practice tee, the chipping green and the putting green. In Bruce’s words “we provide a masters level service to the players in these areas”. There are two shifts a day for the duration of the tournament, Monday through Sunday. Bruce coordinates schedules, make sure that the workers are trained and fills in when something special is needed.
Volunteer duties in these areas include keeping players name plates positioned behind them, providing their favorite brand of ball to practice with, setting up the ropes that control traffic in the area and coordinating with security to regulate access to these areas and whatever else is needed.
Bruce worked with Dell for a decade and has been a venture capitalist for the last ten years so organizing a group of workers is nothing new for him. He got into the volunteer effort by accident. He was traveling during the first year of the tournament when tickets went on sale. They sold out before he could buy some for he and his friends. So, he would up volunteering. He says “I loved doing it and watching these guys practice so I’ve been doing it ever since.
These three fellow, whose name I failed to record, assist Bruce in running the practice areas. They all attended the University of Texas and became friends while in school. They graduated, went to work but stayed in touch. Now they live in Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado and Alabama. They use the tournament as an excuse to get together, watch the worlds best golfers and renew their friendship. They said they have a blast doing the volunteer work because they are all golfers, enjoy watching the worlds best players and spending time together.
Danny Gillespie, who is also a member of Austin Country Club, coordinates the honorary observers that accompany each pairing of players. These honorary observers are allowed to walk with the group inside the ropes and watch the action first hand.
Danny escorts them to the first tee, introduces them to the players, the starter, and orients them to the do’s and dont’s of walking with the players. He says this little scenario happens every eleven minutes as the players tee off.
The honorary observers receive a photograph of the players and he makes sure they receive those. He echos the sentiment that he loves being involved with the tournament.
Bill Lacy, who coordinates the volunteers in the Media center has done the same for the PGA tournament at Colonial. He said when the tour announced they would be holding the Dell Match Play at Austin Country Club, he reached out and offered to do the same in Austin.
It turns out that his daughter lives in the neighborhood and it would give him an excuse to spend time with her. He said “I have my own B&B”.
The volunteers in the media center help make copies of the transcripts from the interviews conducted in the media center and distribute them to the sports writers, radio show hosts and broadcasters who work in the media center. They also monitor who has access to the media dining area.
Jan and Jim Thomas, who are friends of mine, have enjoyed volunteering the past few years. Jan has been in the media center and Jim has worked on the course in various capacities.
Ed Clements, who has been a media personality in the Austin area for years has served as the starter on the first tee since the inception of the tournament.
I didn’t ask him why he does it but anyone who is familiar with Ed knows he is community minded, likes to be where the action is and knows everybody in town. He is a natural choice for the job. Besides, his accent adds to the Texas flavor of the tournament.
In summary, the volunteers are absolutely essential for the success of the tournament and they seem to enjoy the experience.