JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It takes a village to host a professional golf tournament.
Actually, what it took to make Furyk & Friends, which debuted last week at Timuquana Golf Club, run like clockwork is a small army of approximately 600 volunteers, some who took vacation or flew in just to work long hours doing such trivial but vital chores as parking cars, shuttling players, picking up range balls and sorting them, and hauling trash.
Week after week, year after year, many of the same faces greet me at tournaments and make my job and those of so many people they touch that much easier. I always marvel when they inevitably tell me this is their 25th or 30th year volunteering at a particular tournament.
Why do they do it?
I decided I was long overdue to give back at a tournament and find out. There was no better place to do so than at one of my hometown events. Over the years, I’ve noticed ways that charitable causes big and small in the Greater Jacksonville area have benefited from the generosity of the Players Championship, most notably at Nemours Children Hospital, where my daughter has received care.
On Friday, I did the volunteer pu-pu platter of sorts, partaking in short stints working the driving range, walking with a standard-bearer and scorer, chatting with the guys who wash caddie bibs at night and even rode around with the chairman of ecology. He didn’t make me haul any trash, but that’s only because it would’ve spoiled the fun for Mike Crumpler, a lawyer by trade, who called volunteering for the tournament and tossing around trash the best week of his year.
In all, there were 26 committee leaders – everything from first aid to admissions and first tee announcers. They oversee teams of people, some of who take days off from work, pay for hotel rooms out of their own pocket or travel from out of town and spend $45 for the official volunteer uniform of shirt and hat. (Lesson learned: you must wear khaki pants or shorts).
Tabitha Furyk said she wore out her friends and family, who pitched in to make the tournament a success, including father-in-law Mike Furyk, who greeted players on the practice tee as he puffed on a cigar. But it takes a village and she couldn’t tout the work of her volunteers enough, some of whom never even saw a shot, depending on their assignment, which is why she couldn’t wait for the volunteer appreciation party on Sunday night.
“When you have total strangers working for you, it warms your heart,” she said. “I feel like I have new friends that I haven’t even met yet.”
Here are some of the incredible people I met on the job.