IT’S 16 DAYS BEFORE THE FIRST GROUP TEES OFF AT THE AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM and Mary Dubé has a brief window of free time. She is in fine spirits, even as the calendar tries to mock her. With each day in the countdown comes a reminder of the possibilities looming.
The Pro-Am is a massive undertaking for those operating behind the scenes – 156 professional golfers, another 156 amateurs; tens of thousands of fans each day milling between three golf courses. Just about anything can go wrong.
One year it hailed, causing a delay in play. On another occasion a truck became wedged in mud, blocking a parking area just as people were leaving for the day. Then there was the caddie who realized he had forgotten to pick up a required bib, just minutes before his golfer was scheduled to tee off.
And that’s just on tournament days. Volunteers can fall ill, phone lines go down, a global pandemic…
“Don’t say that,” Dubé chimes in with a calm smile. “I kind of wish it was still December,” she adds, now chuckling. “I would be fully caught up.”
IF IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD, it takes volunteers – an army of 1,800 of them, from all over the country – to run the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Everyone from players to fans rely upon these volunteers at some point. Perhaps the only people who don’t benefit from their labors directly are the television crew and the audience watching at home.
Dubé is at the center of this. As volunteer program manager for the Monterey Peninsula Foundation – the nonprofit organization in charge of the event – she brought the army together. Even though she spent the last decade helping out in various capacities, the scale of what happens just off the fairways didn’t strike her immediately.
“I didn’t have a concept that volunteers run the tournament,” Dubé observes. “It’s crazy to think about – a huge event.”
Run is an encompassing term, as several entities have a hand in the outcome. Nothing functions on course without the team of officials from the PGA Tour. The Monterey Peninsula Foundation assembled the contractors to put up stands and suites, pulled the field of celebrities and amateurs together and takes responsibility for the event.
Yet the legion who donate their time and effort to the Pro-Am ensures that all runs without too many hitches. Volunteers fill a surprising number of roles, each critical in their own way. Walking scorers keep up with each group of golfers. The boards they tote inform those in the gallery where each golfer stands on the leaderboard. Also on course are those waving orange paddles, indicating when a player is over the ball and if the following shot is on line.
Drivers are dedicated to shuttle players, officials, fans and media between Spyglass Hill, the Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Pebble Beach Golf Links. Others spend the day providing spectator information or staffing hospitality tents.
In all, there are 30 different roles – referred to as committees, each with a chairperson (who also volunteers).
“Everyone has an opinion on which one is the best,” Dubé observes, adding that there is little movement after a volunteer settles into their task. “People tend to stay. Once you’re a shuttle driver, you don’t switch.”
The largest committee – some 500 people – is dedicated to gallery management. It’s not as ominous as it sounds. But over three courses and four days, there are many opportunities for fans to stray into the wrong place, touch an errant ball or simply need some guidance.
Despite the focus on tournament week, much of Dubé’s heavier lifting actually takes place in the months leading up to the Pro-Am, such as encouraging people to apply as volunteers. During this process, she lays out just what each position entails. In some cases they might be standing or walking all day. Certain posts require extended hours, while others can be broken into short stretches.
Potential volunteers list their top three options. From there it becomes a multi-tiered Sudoku puzzle, as people are slotted in, repositioned and perhaps lined up again in competing efforts to fill all needs while fitting people into one of their top three choices.
Perhaps that’s why she appears so relaxed two weeks before potential chaos. A lot of tumult is already behind her.
Dubé is in her first year as volunteer program manager. Under other circumstances, a newcomer to such a complex and comprehensive post would not be so assured. Despite facetiously – somewhat – wishing for more time as Feb. 2 approaches, she benefits from 10 years as a volunteer herself and some advice from her predecessor.
Suzanne Overton held down the volunteer manager role for 17 years before retiring after the 2022 Pro-Am. She then worked alongside Dubé for four more months to ease the transition.
“She gave me a lot [of advice],” Dubé recalls, the most important being to rely on committee chairs and the experience of regular volunteers. And to trust in fate.
“She told me that somehow it all comes together.”
DUBÉ ARRIVED IN MONTEREY COUNTY 10 YEARS AGO and began looking for opportunities to get involved with the community. That’s when she happened upon Monterey Peninsula Foundation.
PGA Tour stops are philanthropic operations. In fact, since it moved to a nonprofit model in the 1970s, the PGA Tour has raised more money for charity than all other professional sports in this country combined.
MPF formed in 1978. Through the Pro-Am and the Tour Champions event in the fall – the Pure Insurance Championship – the organization is able to support around 200 nonprofits in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, doling out $12 to $15 million each year.
With the 2022 event, the Pro-Am surpassed $200 million in local philanthropic giving since the tournament moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947, the first on the PGA Tour schedule to reach that figure.
The import of that funding, she says, is part of the attraction. The game itself – at least for Dubé – was not a consideration.
“I’m not a golfer,” she admits. “I didn’t know anything about either event.”
First, she helped with year-round MPF operations. Quickly, however, she stepped in as a volunteer at the Pure Insurance event and was hooked.
“Ten years later when Suzanne retired, I applied,” Dubé says. “And here I am.”
She grew up in Texas and was in the restaurant industry with her husband, who launched the successful Freebirds World Burrito chain. When the company sold, they settled in California. Time in the corporate hospitality world gave her experience with large numbers of employees, and with the organizational detail necessary to make things run smoothly.
As it happened, her first supervisor as a golf tournament volunteer also came from a restaurant background. Rachel Zapeda’s family operated Alfredo’s Cantina, and when Dubé had questions, Zapeda would suggest they head to the restaurant and talk about it.
“She’s an amazing person,” Dubé says of Zapeda, who is in her 53rd year as a volunteer. “She shared what the tournament and the foundation do.”
For volunteers, the event is mostly calm, with a few potential storms. When hail covered the course in 2019, Dubé had to help round up golfers and hustle them to shelter (while many of the caddies chose to remain on course and make “hail angels” in the accumulated white stuff).
“There’s always a surprise around the corner,” she points out. “Volunteers could write a book.”
Dubé’s favorite role in her decade of volunteering was at a stand dubbed Rachel’s Trailer, a temporary shop open only to those donating time, where they could purchase event merchandise at cost. Almost everyone came to the trailer, providing Dubé with a chance to meet and speak with the others.
Shopping has since moved online, but the respect she gained for the team remains.
“I’m floored that people are willing to fly here, to pay for their own lodging and come back year after year,” she says. One veteran – Megan Bryant – is even a finalist for PGA Tour Volunteer of the Year honors.
There are other perks besides inexpensive hoodies. Volunteers can play The Hay, the cool par-3 course designed by Tiger Woods. There are raffle items, gatherings and celebrity entertainment.
Dubé believes there’s a more fundamental, human reason people devote a week out of the year to ferrying passengers, marshaling crowds or staffing kiosks. Part of it is the knowledge that someone benefits from their labors – the charitable aspect. But Dubé also compares the experience to summer camp as a kid.
“They make friends,” she explains. “It’s really that – the friendships they develop.” 🏌
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