No skipping these ropes
Volunteers drive home stakes at AT&T Classic

People who visit the TPC at Sugarloaf this week for the AT&T Classic golf tournament will leave with varying memories. Hardcore golfers will think about the majestic tee shots and precise irons hit by the pros, while casual fans will remember the rolling hills and lush fairways.

Ralph Mumme will think about ropes. Miles and miles of ropes.

Before you decide that Mumme needs to visit a psychiatrist, consider his volunteer position for the tournament. The Duluth resident is co-chairman of the very straightforwardly named roping and staking committee. Mumme and co-chair Harland Mathews have worked with a crew of about six people who are responsible for every rope and stake you'll see.

Mumme sees them too. Even in his dreams.

"When you go to bed at night all you see is rope," Mumme said. "Stakes and rope."

They are visions Mumme has had for a while. The retired forester got his start volunteering at golf tournaments as a marshal at the old Senior PGA Tour stop in Alpharetta. From there he began helping local pro tournaments rope the fairways, walkways and other areas of the course, providing a buffer zone between players and their galleries.

He's been doing it since 1995, working everything from the 2001 PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club to the annual TOUR Championship held at East Lake. Mumme, 73, has worked each one of the PGA events at Sugarloaf, logging mile after mile around fairways and greens that he hasn't yet had the opportunity to play.

It's a hammer, not the other kind of driver, that Mumme carries when he walks the course. Over the years, he and Mathews, 72, have gotten smarter in their approach to the physical part of the job. They used to pound nearly every single stake themselves, but now are more than willing to let others in on the fun as the put up an estimated five to six miles of rope around the course.

Not that the process doesn't still provide a workout. Mathews, a Kennesaw resident and retired nylon salesman, even prepares for the tournament like he would if he were competing in an athletic contest. A few weeks out he starts doing exercises with a 4-pound hammer to get himself

in shape.

"It used to be by noon I couldn't raise my hand anymore," Mathews said, laughing at the impetus of the exercises.

Both men are avid golfers - Mathews playing to a 9 handicap - and golf fans, and volunteering at tournaments feeds that. They've both had brushes with Tiger Woods, and Mathews even got a personal autograph from Phil Mickelson after standing with Mickelson's family when the left-hander won at Sugarloaf in 2006.

Stories like that come with the job, just like dreams of rope. Miles and miles of rope.

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.