Golf is for Giving
The AT&T Pro-Am is fueled by volunteers.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
At the AT&T National Pro-Am 2005 Tee Off Party on Wednesday, Feb. 9, George Lopez was one of a number of top shelf celebrities to take the mic. “Volunteer,” he cracked, “is an Indian word for ‘you-stupid-bastard-you-work-for-free.”
The packed house at the Monterey Marriot—some 1,900-plus volunteers ages 18-80—roared. They couldn’t be happier working for free.
Lopez and the cavalcade of stars who pour into the Peninsula every year are grateful that these volunteers love their work. A rollicking three-hour volunteers-only concert, which is carefully shielded from press or publicity, communicates their appreciation.
Said veteran comic Tom Drayson, who emceed the event, “This is about you guys. We love you.”
This year, Glen Campbell, Michael Bolton, Ray Romano, Kenny G, Clay Walker and Huey Lewis joined Lopez, Drayson and others in entertaining. The concert, which followed a sweeping spread of shrimp, crab, lamb, and clam chowder, would have been enough to make late tournament founder Bing Crosby—who delighted in hosting his famous clambakes until his death on a golf course in Spain in 1977—proud.
Marshal Bill Lawler of Los Gatos says he has abandoned golf tournaments in the Bay Area where he volunteered in the past because they didn’t approach AT&T Pro-Am-type appreciation.
“Nowadays people don’t take care of volunteers, cutting back perks, asking for more hours,” he said at the party. “They really take care of you here.”
On the course, it is similarly impossible to miss the gratitude of players like this year’s eventual champ, Phil Mickelson. After each hole he quietly thanked the volunteers ringing the green with one of his trademark smiles and a quick word.
While the parties and the recognition are nice, volunteers find their primary motivation elsewhere—in a number. Not any of the numbers golf fans fixate on—yardages, pars and course records (such as Mickelson’s 62 at Spyglass Thursday)—but another number: 4.36 million (the number of dollars donated to local charities by the AT&T last year).
That ranks Monterey second to only the Dallas-Fort Worth megatropolis in terms of charitable giving through golf tournaments.
“Our volunteers take ownership in the tournament,” said Juanita Russo, Volunteer Coordinator and Manager of Finances for the event. “The fruit of their efforts is the money we give to the community.”
Indeed, this year as in every year, marshals, scorekeepers, admissions agents, shuttle operators, hospitality coordinators and communications officers were hustling around purposefully before the sun crested Del Monte Forest.
Twenty-three year veteran Margo Daniels was one of them. Her big white canvas tent at the Corner of Portola and Alva was a swirl of volunteers gathering coffee, lunches and snacks for their teams scattered around Poppy Hills, Spyglass and Pebble Beach golf courses.
“I start at four in the morning and some days get done at nine at night,” Daniels said. “Nobody in their right mind would do that.”
Daniels and her fellow volunteers donate 70,000 hours a year.
Veteran Marshals Rule
Head scorekeeper Dick Searle has been doing it since 1947, when his father Dan, a local electrical contractor and avid golfer (he once held the course record at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club), approached Crosby about bringing his unique pro-am tournament from Rancho Santa Fe to the Peninsula.
Dick Searle was a 21-year old scorekeeper at the time, and happy that Bing accepted his father’s invitation.
“Fans and volunteers walked with the players in the fairways—I would always talk to Jack Lemmon quite a bit,” he said, lifting his bushy white eyebrows slightly. “The purse for the winner was $500.”
Now Searle oversees the scoring for the whole tournament, where the winner clears about $1 million.
While Searle is the most senior volunteer here—with the rickety gait to demonstrate it—he certainly isn’t alone in his role as an elder statesman. Some of the most experienced among them are the marshals—45 belong to the 40 Year Club. They’re some of the most visible, with their red jackets, iconic knickers and argyle socks, holding arms aloft to signal silence on the green.
They enjoy a certain chemistry with the golfers, but have to keep it loosely professional. Like when actor Samuel Jackson tried to buddy up with John Lockney, a 12-year volunteer from Los Gatos. Jackson sauntered over to where Lockney was patrolling the ropes at Spyglass. He had a tricky 25-foot putt for birdie.
“Hey, you know this course. Which way is this gonna go?” Jackson said, grinning.
“You know I can’t tell you that—I’ll get thrown in jail.” Lockney replied, an even bigger grin spreading across his sun-baked face.
More spontaneous responsibilities also pop up. Minutes after Jackson two-putted for par, usually steady professionals Scott Simpson and Jeff Sluman both pushed short birdie putts to the right of the same first hole at Spyglass. Bill Murray, Simpson’s longtime playing partner, appealed to the marshals on the green.
“I know the problem here,” he said, pointing towards a comely woman in the sight line of the errant putts. “It’s the blonde in brown pants.”
He paused, turning to the team of volunteers on the hole. “Marshals, wrestle her to the ground.”