Volunteering at Professional Events
Running a Disc Golf Pro Tour event takes an army of people. There are full pro-level courses to maintain, players and volunteers to feed, rounds to be scored, and so much more. Being a member of the army of volunteers can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and it’s something that I would encourage everyone to do at least once in their life. I had the distinct pleasure of getting to do this at the 2021 MVP Open, and it’s something I absolutely plan to do again. In this post, we’ll talk about some of the biggest reasons you should consider volunteering at a professional event. Let’s talk about it!
- Because You Can
More so than anything else. You should volunteer because you can! Think about any other sport at the professional level. Think about NFL games, PGA tournaments, and any other professional sports event. Are you, with no experience, connections, or legitimate training, able to participate in those events in any way other than as a spectator? Of course not! As you’ll see in other items on this list, it’s a no-brainer as to why you should be volunteering at these events. While the sport is young and developing, now is the best time to get involved!
- Witnessing Incredible Disc Golf
You think seeing Simon Lizotte throw 500 feet on YouTube or the Disc Golf Network (DGN) is entertaining? Try being on the fairway, watching it come towards you, with a flag in hand, ready to mark the disc for him as it lands. You think the tension on the tee pad is electrifying from your couch? Try holding onto the rope or carrying the score indicator behind the lead card. Do you enjoy following along with Udisc Live and seeing that Calvin just hit a 45-foot putt to take the lead? Think about being the person plugging that into your phone so everyone at home can know what’s happening.
One of the jobs you can do as a volunteer is act as a hole spotter. While you may be thinking that some holes might not be worth spotting on, I can guarantee you that by the end of the day, you’ll be glad you did it. I was lucky enough to spot on hole 11 during round 1 and hole 16 during round 2 during the 2021 MVP Open. It was so much fun. I got to watch so many incredible drives and upshots. Seeing them in person trumps watching them online every time.
- Giving Back to the Game
There is something to be said about the satisfaction that can be found in giving your time and energy to the sport of disc golf. Being able to help make these tournaments possible and be a part of the history of disc golf is very rewarding. As a volunteer, you have so many unique opportunities to help others at these events. You might get to work food service, getting the pros and other volunteers some much-needed food. You can be a hole spotter, helping with the pace of play. You can help with setup, cleanup, and course maintenance, making the course beautiful for those playing and those viewing.
I know that for me personally, disc golf has given me so much. It’s been a place for me to better understand my emotions, challenge myself, make so many wonderful friends, and channel my competitive energy. The least I can do is find a way to give back to the sport. This can be done locally, or through volunteering at events. Obviously, you don’t need to only volunteer at professional events. Go help at your local events. Pick a few weekends a year to switch from playing to volunteering. It will be well worth the time and mean a lot to so many others.
- Interacting with the Pros
Let’s be honest. One of the best parts of volunteering at a professional event is getting to interact with the pros. While you, as a volunteer, should limit your “interaction” during the rounds, you still get unique opportunities to interact with the pros. As a hole spotter, I was able to help the pros find their discs and manage the pace of play. When I was on hole 11 during round 1, I chased around a ton of big drives that landed all over the fairway and in the Christmas trees. I had some very fun interactions with specific pros as they were very thankful to have their disc found and not need to look for it.
When I was spotting for hole 16, there was a moment where Adam Hammes, in his second round, had his drive take a bad kick to the left and into the swamp just off the rough. As the lead card passed, we had some time until the FPO cards came through, so I was able to get into the water and locate his disc for him. After seeing him win the event, I liked to imagine that he used that disc a lot, and I was a small part of his win. Whether there is any truth to that or not, what an experience it was to have that as a memory.
The most special interaction I got to have was during round 3 when I followed along several different cards as a Udisc Live scorekeeper. I got to watch some veterans and young pros play the course in different ways. The banter was epic. The jokes were fun. I’ll admit that this job was a bit more nerve-wracking than hole spotting. You have a decent bit to keep track of, and you sometimes need to make a call on what is or is not a “fairway hit”. There was some basic day of training, but it wasn’t too hard to get the hang of.
- Experience Courses Differently
I think we can all agree that being on a course is better than watching it on a screen. Getting to spend time on a pro-level course while it’s being played is magical. You can better understand just how hard the holes are and how skillful the professional players are. If you haven’t stood on the tee pad for hole 14 at Maple Hill, you will never truly understand how terrifying that shot is. Likewise, without being there, you’ll never experience the majesty of hole 1. Volunteering at an event can give you a much greater respect for the course and help you see it in a different light.
One of the other great parts of being there is that, depending on your length of stay, you can usually get a round on the course after the event is over. I was able to wake up on Labor Day and play a round on the Diamond (FPO) layout. The course also had a lot of the media teams playing as they were now getting to enjoy the course as well.
- It’s Easy
It’s so easy to volunteer at these events! I was blown away at how little I had to do. I filled out a simple form with my information and some questions about whether I have ever volunteered before. After a couple of days of waiting, they let me know that I was eligible to volunteer. Participation cost about $100, but for that, I was given a volunteer pack with a disc golf bag, about 5-6 discs, several minis, dry bags, 3 t-shirts, a disc signed by both event winners, and some other swag. We also were fed lunch every day. It was worth every penny to be out there. You’d be surprised at how easy it is. Go check it out next time you have an event within driving distance you’re comfortable with.
- Long-lasting Memories
This is something I can’t say enough about, and it’s something that only those who have volunteered can understand. The MVP Open and Maple Hill are now very special to me because of the experiences I had there. When I watch coverage of the event, I can put myself on the course. I can see where I stood. I know what it feels like. That makes the viewing experience infinitely more enjoyable. Not only that, but I also still see volunteers on the coverage that I remember working with. I have at least 2 or 3 “I know that guy” moments while viewing.
One of the memories that will stick out the most to me is after the last round of the event and the celebration, they needed to shuttle volunteers back to the off-site parking. It was a slightly less than 10-minute drive. The man, the myth, and the legend himself, Steve Dodge, decided to help shuttle volunteers. This man had run around like a madman all weekend, making sure that the professionals and sponsors were well taken care of. He created a unique spectator experience and made sure the course was as perfect as it could be. This was his chance to relax. Instead, he hopped in his car and shuttled volunteers. In that short car ride, we talked about how special disc golf and Maple Hill was. Steve made it a point to thank us, saying that the sport wouldn’t exist, and the tournaments wouldn’t function with us.
Why are you still here? You should be checking your schedule for next year and picking out which event you’re going to volunteer at. Don’t forget to pick out a few local tournaments as well. Let’s give back to the sport that we love so much.
Have you ever volunteered at a professional event? What is your favorite thing about being a volunteer? Let me know in the comments below!
- Gary Daddario III - www.thumberlife.com