Staff Photos: Jason Braverman. From left, Nicole Jackson runs the scoreboard at the 93rd PGA Championship in Johns Creek on Friday. Landon Hoffman, 16, walks the course as a standard bearer. Kathleen Robinson hands out pairing sheets to fans as they enter the Atlanta Athletic Club. David Null, a hole marshal, gets the crowd quiet on the 18th Friday afternoon.
JOHNS CREEK — Given the enourmous crowds to deal with and working in high heat and humidity, it would be easy to look at the many tasks undertaken by approximately 3,500 local volunteers at this week’s 93rd PGA Championships at Atlanta Athletic Club as thankless jobs.
From more high-profile jobs — like marshaling at a specific hole and escorting players and PGA officials — to the little things like posting scores and manning information booths for fans, each person giving his or her time for no pay is doing so to help golf’s final major of the season run as smoothly as possible.
And despite the hours, hard work and hot temperatures, the rewards are plenty.
“It’s nice to get inside the ropes like this and have unlimited access to the facility,” said Norcross resident Guy Milliken, who has joined several of his fellow members from Berkeley Hills Country Club in Duluth to serve as marshal at AAC’s ninth hole. “I’m having a great time. We tried to get enough members to have our own hole. We thought it would be a cool thing to do.”
It’s easy to see why Milliken and his fellow golf enthusiasts from Berkeley Hills would look at participating in one of the game’s premier events as a cool thing to do, even with a limited opportunity to see some of the best players in the world show their skills.
So, imagine how someone like Johns Creek resident Shawn McKinnon sees his job.
“I’m a player shuttle,” McKinnon said as he manned one of the many golf carts used to shuttle players back and forth between different points at Atlanta Athletic Club — such as the driving range, putting green and the clubhouse — before and after their rounds. “I get to meet some of the guys, and it’s a nice way to create a breeze because it’s pretty hot out here. It is nice to talk to (the players). Sometimes, they’re not in a good mood because they didn’t play too well, but most of the guys I’ve talked to have been pretty nice.
“I had a different assignment (when the PGA was last at AAC) in 2001. I was on the 18th green. ... I got to see more golf then. Now, we’re getting to talk to the players more. So it’s all good.”
Not every job for volunteers is quite so glamorous, nor is it necessarily what specific volunteers planned on when they signed up.
Take, for example, Travis Hancuff of Suwanee, who orginally thought he would be helping out in a nice, air-conditioned scoring trailer.
“They scheduled too many people, so they sent me out here,” joked Hancuff, who was helping post hole-by-hole scores on the main manual scoreboard outside the AAC clubhouse. “It’s a little bit more old school. The galleries prefer it.”
This is Hancuff’s third time volunteering at the PGA, having served as a standard bearer at the 1988 PGA at Oak Tree Golf Club in Edmond, Okla., before serving as a scorekeeper in the 2001 PGA at AAC.
“I actually think I appreciated it more,” Hancuff said. “When I did it in 1988, I was 17, and I think I was more awestruck then. I think I’ve learned to appreciate the players more as I’ve gotten older.”
Volunteering for a major championship does seem to leave enough an impression with those who do it to keep them coming back whenever the opportunity arises.
In some cases, they even travel hundreds of miles to do so, like Marilea Lightner, who is back 10 years after her first PGA despite moving from Roswell to Bluffton, S.C., five years ago.
“When the PGA was here 10 years ago, we enjoyed the experience,” said Lightner, who was marshaling at hole No. 10. “So, we came back a second time.”