GAP Band Marshals Its Volunteer Forces on 15th Hole
By Tony Regina
As spectators attempted to avoid a murky crosswalk on Merion Golf Club’s 15th hole Thursday, John Green pointed and redirected with a smile.
“I’m the mud police,” he said jokingly.
The moment perfectly matches the spirit shown by Green and his peers on the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s crew, which is overseeing No. 15 throughout the U.S. Open. Eighty-five volunteers — 60 of whom have Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) ties — serve as tee signalers, fairway spotters and crosswalk controllers, with the crosswalk duty made slightly more complicated by this week’s rainfall. But Green and Co. try to be prepared for any situation that might arise.
“Fundamentally, we know what we’re doing,” Green, 62, of Langhorne, Pa., said. “We’re out here to give the players assistance and to also help the crowds.”
“It’s nice to have guys who know how it works instead of spoon-feeding them,” said Justin Reasy, the GAP team captain. “Our volunteers have been great. They’ve done everything we expect of them. Having volunteers who know tournament golf makes our job easier when we have people out there whom we’ve relied on in the past.”
It’s natural that the USGA sought GAP’s involvement in administering its grandest championship. For starters, the U.S. Open is being staged at storied Merion, one of GAP’s founding member clubs. The USGA works in tandem with more than 50 state and regional golf associations (SRGAs) nationwide — GAP being one of them. So when the two parties connected nearly two years ago to discuss the 2013 U.S. Open, GAP readily accepted a marshaling assignment.
“It’s such a great honor, especially to volunteer for the United States Golf Association, and to be associated with GAP is extremely important,” said Jules Quinones, a three-year GAP volunteer and a member of the 15th-hole crew. “The two just go together.”
“Charlie Howe [assistant manager of the 2013 U.S. Open] has been great; he’s answered all of our questions and let us know what we need to do,” said Reasy, 30, of Conshohocken, Pa.. “We couldn’t ask for anyone better.”
To assemble its team, the golf association tapped into its membership of 57,000. Meetings to review responsibilities began once the roster was finalized. The Golf Association of Philadelphia’s team at No. 15 operates in two shifts (morning and afternoon), with 16 marshals and a hole captain per wave. Reasy, the Association’s tournament assistant, is joined by assistant captains Cory Reighard, its director of Course Rating, and Matt Lynch, an Overbrook Golf Club member who volunteered as a hole captain at the AT&T National from 2010-11 when the PGA Tour event took place at nearby Aronimink Golf Club.
“My experience from that event helped,” Lynch, 57, of Newtown Square, Pa., said. “These are my heroes. To be able to be so close to them is great fun.”
“From a captain’s standpoint, we just have to ensure we have our best guys there and that they’re comfortable with what they’re doing,” added Reighard, 30, of Downingtown, Pa.
Before each shift, GAP team members gather to discuss positioning and priorities. Merion’s 15th hole is a formidable par 4 that boasts a demanding tee shot, out-of-bounds to the left and daunting rough on the right. The Golf Association of Philadelphia team aims to ensure crowd and spectator safety, to give proper attention to players and to keep play moving, according to Reasy. Fortunately, the USGA is “incredibly organized” when instructing its volunteer teams, Lynch said.
“They have a playbook which they follow,” he said. “They’re very polite but firm. It’s a very well-oiled machine.”
And with little margin for error on No. 15, composure — and a touch of know-how — is critical to the GAP team playbook. During Tuesday’s practice round, seven balls flew out of bounds. Eight went astray Wednesday; Ian Poulter teed it up five times that day.
“It’s amazing watching the players here,” Quinones, 47, of Souderton, Pa., said. “They were very cordial during the practice rounds. Graeme McDowell was a class act. He was very friendly to the crowds.”
So, too, is the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s volunteer team, exemplifying the “service with a smile” mantra at No. 15 all week long.
“I’m really proud of our guys and what we do,” Reasy said. “I think we have one of the best marshaling groups out here.”
Tony Regina is the director of operations for the Golf Association of Philadelphia.