Volunteering at the 2015 PGA Championship: Practice Makes Perfect

All signs point to the hosts of the 2015 major golf championships.

All signs point to the hosts of the 2015 major golf championships.

Monday through Wednesday of a golf tournament week is the time when contestants fine tune their game in preparation of the weekend’s upcoming test of skill. The practice rounds they get to play during this time allow the players to acclimate themselves with the personality of the course. It’s also an ideal time for spectators to watch their favorite players and snap some photos, something that’s not allowed during championship rounds.

It is also a valuable time for volunteers to get some on-course practice in their areas of responsibility. In my case, today’s practice rounds gave me and the other members of the Laser Operators committee a chance to get familiar with the technology we need to use.

But before getting down to business with the lasers, I was lucky enough to spend Tuesday’s practice rounds at Whistling Straits with my parents, taking in the scenery and watching some golf.

Phil Mickelson

Phil Mickelson on the practice range at Whistling Straits.

It was great to spend some time at the driving range during practice rounds, as you get quite close to the biggest names in golf. I was within 10-15 feet of golfers like Phil Mickelson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Wisconsinite Steve Stricker.

After watching the range for a while, it was time to hit the course. The first thing spectators will learn about Whistling Straits upon walking the course is how treacherous it actually is to traverse by foot. In my time there the last two days, two separate individuals fell down slopes on the course and required medical attention. At least one person sustained a broken ankle.

Once safely on the course, there are several great vantage points to catch the action. Near the Hole 6 green, the PGA set up a grandstand that allows viewers to watch action on three different holes. There are also spots near Holes 11 and 15 that allow close vantage points.

After a great Tuesday with my parents, it was time to get down to business at the course today. I was able, for the first time, to practice with the ShotLink lasers that I will be using Thursday through Saturday during Championship Rounds. The devices used are very precise, but are quite easy to use. The data we compile with the lasers is sent to many outlets on and off the course. Stats are collected and sent to TV networks for use during broadcast, as well as PGA.com for fans to monitor while away from their rec rooms.

I got to go inside the ropes for the first time at Hole 11, a par 5 that requires two different fairway laser locations. I was also able to get trained on the greenside laser, a much more powerful machine that can read the brand name on a golf ball from 1,500 yards away.

Hole 11 at Whistling Straits

Hole 11 at Whistling Straits.

With today’s training, I am now ready to tackle my first full shift as a Laser Operator. I am excited, as well as a little nervous.

If you’re tuning in, I’ll be working Hole 2’s fairway tomorrow from 11:45 a.m. until the end of the day. Keep your eyes peeled!

Let the season’s last major begin!

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