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Volunteering at the US Open will cost you $225. But it has its advantages

A key part of the engine that powers USGA events: volunteers.

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There are many things that will catch your eye at this year's US Open, from the greens dominated by Donald Ross that rise slightly from the soft to the wiregrass that has been added to the rough to punish the world's best players. The sandscape of Pinehurst No. 2 will still be a big draw but this year we are surrounded by bigger grandstands than its last game as our host country for the national championship, in 2014, not to mention the big corporate tents and one of the biggest outdoor televisions. screens you've ever seen looking at 18 greens. But what you won't see is an army of volunteers, 4,000 strong, all paid – yes, paid — working the US Open.

Only in golf, a sport full of fanatics and evangelists, does the USGA's $225 volunteer fee seem like a bargain. And if you think that's crazy, there are 2,000 other people on the waiting list, hoping that they, too, get a chance to go up.

But before you contact a labor attorney, here's what you get. Volunteers get access to the site for seven days, two shirts, a water bottle, a special hat, jacket and souvenir pins, and a tote bag for all that loot. Currently, according to the US Open website, one-day Monday-Sunday gallery tickets will run $630 before fees, while Monday tickets are $65 cheaper. However, a life of volunteering, even in the hot, long days of June in North Carolina, can be your best life and a big part of the reason why Pinehurst, throughout its storied history, has found itself one of the anchor gathering centers. the USGA's premier golf show.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of this tournament,” said Eric Steimer, executive director of the US Open Championships. And when you're in Pinehurst, the USGA gets an outpouring of volunteer interest because unlike other places, like Los Angeles or Boston, the US Open is a public event in Pinehurst, 18,000 people.

Of those 4,000 volunteers, about 900 are members of the Pinehurst Country Club, according to Larry McWane, the tournament's volunteer chairman, who is also a club member. The courses at Pinehurst Resort are public but also shared by Pinehurst Country Club, including course number 2. That enthusiasm extends to Pinehurst and Moore County, however.

About 70 percent of the volunteers will come from the state of North Carolina and that number increases to more than 80 percent if you add the states bordering North Carolina, Steimer said. That kind of support, along with the historic nature of No. 2, was a key factor in the USGA naming Pinehurst as an anchor site.

“A golf course is what a golf course is — a big game week,” Steimer said, but “the biggest testament to Pinehurst is the support of the community and how they've embraced us.” McWane agrees, noting that many of the volunteers for this year's tournament also worked for the 2014 tournament, including himself, when he served as volunteer chairman.

In preparation for 2029, McWane is training his top lawyer to take over. Pinehurst's real secret to volunteer success is not only thinking ahead for this transition but also in coordinating who will take over to help lead the next event.

When Steve Griswold retired as a colonel in the Air Force, he and his wife (also an Air Force veteran) retired to Pinehurst. A lifelong golfer, Griswold happened to volunteer, first at the North-South Open and later at the 2018 US Amateur.

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He says: “Like most of the residents here, we come from all parts of the world.” “A lot of people like me love the game of golf, so we want to be involved with it. Most expatriate retirees volunteer at tournaments wherever they live, whether it's major tournaments or PGA Tour events or LPGA events. When they come here, the opportunity arises for you to volunteer in competitions.”

And it's true. While the number 2 last played the men's and women's US Open in 2014, several tournaments have taken place at the resort since then including two US Adaptive Opens and a US Amateur.

Besides staying close to the game, Griswold says one of the things that volunteering does is allow him to use his military background to help things go smoothly. In fact, there are a number of ex-military personnel who serve heroically as volunteers. “We're used to dealing with complex things,” says Griswold. We tend to make plans and make plans. He is used to the chain of command and dealing with assets.”

Griswold says the appeal of volunteering, for him, is “being a part of the show. It's a very small part. I'm not actually going to watch a lot of golf. I'm going to go out and drive around the course and experience things. As a fan, I'd like to be able to go and just watch golf, but I'm excited for the Open and the people to be here. . As long as all the plans work as they should, which I think they will, the opening will be a success.”

As happy as they are to volunteer, there is one hole for McWane.

“Of our 4,000 volunteers, all of them want to be taggers, which puts you in the ropes.” He says the hardest part of his job is saying no. “There are only 60 people who are marked so there are a lot of people who are disappointed.” Many of them are to be seen at the club after the tournament and throughout the year.

On the day we spoke, crews were busy installing more scaffolding and building the massive infrastructure now needed for a major golf tournament, but the course's fairways were still rough and tidy – a puzzle that made number 2 stand out. outside – as before. The progression of the event wasn't exactly the stress ball I had imagined, but then again, they've done this before and will do it again many times. McWane and Griswold were both calm and ready to go, men who had been in the breach before and gotten out of it well.

“I'm excited that we're going to showcase our team,” Griswold said. “I'm happy to see the number 2 light up.”

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Michael Croley is a freelance golf writer in Ohio. His features, reviews, and articles have appeared in Golf Digest, Golf Magazine, The Golfer's Journal, Bloomberg Businessweek, Esquire, and McKellar. He is the author of the short story collection, Any Other Place.

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