I first volunteered for the Women’s Australian Open at Victoria Golf Club in 2014 and just loved the experience of being inside the ropes in a high-profile event and the 2015 event at Royal Melbourne was too good to pass on.
As a volunteer you can select the roles that suit your interests and physical capabilities; roles such as leaderboard attendant, scorer, group marshal, car park attendant and carry board walker all play a part in helping the event run smoothly.
Some of the roles are simple, others require some coaching from those more experienced to ensure players can move quickly and safely from green to the next tee.
Sometimes it's hard not to get caught up star-gazing, but you are there to do a job. The event organisers ensure clothing, food vouchers and drinks are provided as well as entry to car park and course. You can elect to work every day or just the times that suit – some tragics like me do 36 holes each day.
So why the women’s Open? I play off a single-figure handicap, but the men's tour has no relevance to how I play. It’s great to watch but I am never going to hit the ball 330m, nor blast the ball into orbit.
But I can relate to how these women play. They are sneaky long, swing it great and if you want to learn course management, go watch them!
However, the best part is simply this … the girls appreciate the work the volunteers do, they thank you, genuinely, for your time and effort.
Frequently the players engage you in conversation between shots or in delays and always oblige for a photo or autograph at the end of the round.
At Royal Melbourne I was fortunate to work with Karrie Webb and So Yeon Ryu twice, Jessica Korda, Kelly Tan and Wei Ling Hsu. I even got to work with the champ Lydia Ko twice, including the final 10 holes on Sunday.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to see, hear and sometimes talk to the players up close.You meet and make friends with other volunteers from around the country and enjoy a common bond. You also are offered the chance to play the course as a thanks for your efforts.
Sometimes really cool things happen, for no real reason other than to show the thanks for your efforts, a signed ball after an eagle or hat.
And sometimes the winner shares something very special with you … and those memories will last a lifetime.