Posted: July 9, 2015 7:28 pm
Sure, you got your glory volunteer jobs at the U.S. Woman’s Open: the greeters who welcome the big-name players at the airport, say, or the merchandise sellers who work in the plush air-conditioned pavilion with the fancy clothes and the Swarovski necklaces.
But take a moment to consider these offbeat and not-as-glamorous jobs: the ball washers, the ball sorters, the standard bearers, the chauffeurs and the lost-and-found head cheese.
The tournament could not operate without this crew at the Lancaster Country Club this week,
Come with us behind the scenes, and meet a few of them.
THE BALL WASHER
Jack Kingsbury, 16, of Manheim Township, is smiling and pleasant on a humid day as a metal machine cranks and whirs behind him in a small tent.
A country club employee, Jack is spending his days both retrieving and washing some of the approximately 20,000 balls used every day on the practice range this week by the 160 golfers at the Open.
Jack mostly uses a plunger, a hand-held, pole-shaped doohickey that plucks balls off the grass one by one. Sometimes, he drives a cart that sweeps balls into a trailer.
He then puts the balls in the washer, a mechanical device that uses a detergent and water to scrub the balls and spit them out, assembly-line style, cleaning 500 balls in just two minutes.
You might think handling 20,000 golf balls a day would make you a little weary of golf.
“I’ve started playing,” Jack says. “I’m not very good but I like it. I like that you can play it ’til basically you are in the grave.”
THE BALL SORTER
How would you like to get to the golf course at 5 a.m. to hand-sort thousands and thousands of golf balls into buckets?
Jeanette and John Sweeney, of Lititz, are doing that this week, ready to hand off the buckets to golfers at the first 6:45 a.m. practice round.
As the morning goes on, the couple continuously sorts balls that have been hit, collected and washed into more buckets, grouping them by brand name: Titleist, Callaway and Bridgestone.
Jeanette Sweeney, 48, sits in a chair, tossing the balls into buckets with a relaxed efficiency.
Some of the ball sorters, like Ray Mott, 64, of Harrisburg, have done three shifts a day at the job this week.
“We call ourselves the rainbow people — we’re here from dawn to dusk,” he says.
John Sweeney, 48, says the job allows volunteers to see players up close, as they work on their shots, perfecting their technique. Sometimes that’s a bit discouraging.
“It’s made me think about quitting the game,” Mott says, laughing. “‘They’re that good.”
THE STANDARD BEARER
You have seen them out on a golf course during major tournaments: those people who go from hole to hole carrying big signs with golfers’ names and scores on them.
At the Open, this job is being done by 80 teens, age 14 to 17, most of them who already know their way around a golf course.
The teens carry a heavy green metal sign, called a standard, that is tucked into a holster attached to a belt that fits over their shoulders.
Cara Basso, 17, of Downingtown, a scratch golfer, is headed to Penn State University this fall, where she will play golf on a scholarship.
She is happy to have a hole-side view of the world’s top women golfers this week. So happy she did a 36-hole day Monday, registering almost 13 miles on the fitness tracker she wears on her wrist.
Basso said she observes the standard bearer’s etiquette.
“It’s like what your mom says: don’t speak until you’re spoken to,” she says.
But many of the players are friendly. she says, noting that Brittany Lincicome posted a photo of her Monday practice foursome, with Basso holding the standard, on her Instagram account.
Bob Rose, 64, of Lititz, sells real estate, so he knows his way around Lancaster County.
He figured that would make him a good driver on the transportation team of about 160 volunteers who greet and transport golf tournament folks in the 240 official Lexus vehicles being used this week at the Open.
Drivers pick up players at the airports in Lancaster and Philadelphia. They drive them back and forth to their hotels and rented homes.
They also transport tournament officials and this week also drove both renowned swing coach David Leadbetter and the dad of Lydia Ko, a New Zealand golfer who earlier this year at the age of 17 was the youngest golfer of either gender to be ranked No. 1.
Wednesday, Rose drove two United States Golf Association officials from the Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square to the country club. While at the hotel, he saw golfer Natalie Gulbis snapping photos of the Griest Building.
“What better way to help out?” he says of his driving gig, “And I get to see some great golf.”
THE LOST-AND-FOUND GUY
Scott Loose, 56, of Willow Street, works at the Championship Office, where the Open’s lost-and-found is located.
Of course, Loose does much more than oversee the small plastic bin but his office is the one that upset and frantic people end up at if they lose a credit card, cell phone or other belonging.
As of mid-day Wednesday, the lost-and-found was not doing much business. In the bin were three pairs of sunglasses, one gold-colored ring, one camera memory card and one cell phone.
Loose already had helped unite one cell phone with its grateful owner earlier this week.
“She had a little sigh of relief,” he says.
The best reunion so far this week: a woman who lost her husband.
“We kept calling him on his cell phone,” Loose says. “They got back together.”