WORCESTER, Mass – The World Golf Championship moved from Mexico to The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., last weekend because of the pandemic and the tournament needed volunteers.
So Bradenton resident Joe Doyle – my brother – signed up. Normally, PGA Tour “volunteers” must pay $75 to donate their time for at least four days and serve in such positions as marshals, scorers and ball spotters or in transportation or hospitality.
Because the event switched sites less than six weeks before the PGA Tour golfers teed off, the tournament allowed volunteers to sign up for only one day. Doyle volunteered only on Sunday, the day that Collin Morikawa earned the first-place prize of $1.82 million, and he didn’t even have to pay the $75 volunteer fee. Nevertheless, he received the same benefits that every volunteer did – a free golf cap, shirt and rain jacket, as well as the chance to see the world’s best golfers up close.
Unfortunately, wicking golf shirts and most golf caps irritate his skin and because the jacket is a rain jacket, he hopes he never has to wear it. Nevertheless, he was glad to spend a day as a volunteer.
“I enjoyed it,” he said by telephone. “Now would I want to do this for four days straight? No way.
“It’s slave labor, no doubt about it,” he said. “Biden wants a minimum wage of $15. How about these guys?”
On the other hand, the few golf fans allowed to purchase tickets because of the pandemic would have gladly forked over only $75. Doyle said he heard that they paid more than $400 for a daily ticket.
Doyle, a 64-year-old retired accountant, started out his day as a spotter, finding drives that missed the 17th fairway. He was having second thoughts about spending all day in the sun, but after only a few minutes he was allowed to move closer to the 17th green to help keep track of golfers for PGA Tour ShotLink from their second shots until they reached the green on the par-5 hole. In between groups, he was able to sit in the tripod chair he brought in the shade of a tree.
He pressed his finger on the approximate location of each second shot on a diagram of the hole on a computer pad and his co-worker located the ball and laser-measured the remaining distance to the cup. That information was relayed to the television crew so the announcers could tell the viewers.
He couldn’t get over how sophisticated everything was and the fact that NBC and radio reporters kept notes on each hole. The attitude of the golfers also surprised him.
“I’m guessing this was only because there were so few fans,” he said, “but it’s incredible how absolutely serious and zoned in these golfers are.”
Doyle worked inside the ropes and because there were so few fans due to the pandemic, he could hear the caddies tell the golfers exactly how and where to hit their shots.
“They were so precise, it was unbelievable,” he said.
Doyle and another volunteer had trouble finding Adam Scott’s second shot to the short par-5. They figured Scott’s ball must have rolled into the pond near the green and were about to end their search when Doyle finally found it in the rough about 20 feet farther to the left of where they had been looking. He planted a flag at the ball.
When Scott saw the flag, he was relieved to learn his ball had stayed dry.
“He was happy,” Doyle said.
Unfortunately, he still ended up making a bogey on the hole en route to a final-round 77 that landed him in a tie for 54th.
Doyle’s golfing buddy followed groups while keeping score and indicating on his hand-held device when each golfer was about to take a shot. That information allowed NBC to know when to switch to another golfer as he was ready to hit. The friend did such a great job, he was assigned the final group on Sunday.
Doyle worked for five hours before changing his shirt and watching the tournament for a while. He saw Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Reed and Collin Morikawa hit a few shots, but he headed to his home alongside Esplanade Golf & Country Club before the event ended.