Volunteering at the 2015 PGA Championship: the experience of a lifetime

Thanks for the memories, Whistling Straits!

Thanks for the memories, Whistling Straits!

After taking a week to dwell on my PGA Championship experience, I wanted to write a full summary of my time working at Whistling Straits.

I completed my three shifts as a Laser Operator on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the tournament. It was very cool to be inside the ropes and get within arms-length of some of the most notable golfers on the planet.

The volunteer uniform for the 2015 PGA Championship.

The volunteer uniform for the 2015 PGA Championship.

There were many cool individual moments from the weekend, and some stand out more than others. It was cool to stand mere feet away from John Daly as he helped look for a fellow competitor’s golf ball. It was awesome to get acknowledged by Miguel Angel Jimenez as I pointed out his ball to him. It was crazy to have to help clear a concession stand area of spectators when Sergio Garcia hit is tee shot into it.

Working at the event was an amazing experience. But it was a lot of work as well. I had to apply at least two tubes of sunblock during the week to shield my skin from the sun.

I came away with a farmer’s tan that would make even Old MacDonald jealous.

It was also a but dangerous, as large storms blew into the Sheboygan area on Friday evening. The winds toppled several structures on the course. I was fortunate to be able to get to my car just as the storm hit.

On Sunday, I attended the tourney as a spectator. It was a much different experience. I enjoyed the extra freedom of being able to jump from hole to hole to watch groups make their way around the course.

I posted up for a good time at Hole 17, which is a picturesque par-3 right on Lake Michigan. It was there that I witnessed a man and woman sitting in the second row offer up to $200 to exchange seats with another couple, just so they could be in the front row near the green. Amazingly enough, the couple declined.

I then hopped over to the Championship Shops to cool off in some air conditioning (the temperature approached 90 degrees that day). After buying a 2014 Ryder Cup polo and getting my body temperature down to a normal level, I headed back out to the course to get a good spot near the Hole 18 green.

Rickie Fowler signs autographs following his final round at the 2015 PGA Championship.

Rickie Fowler signs autographs.

On my way, a large crowd began to form near the practice area. I was sucked into it and pushed to a spot near the putting green. As I tried to figure out what was happening, I saw a familiar figure signing autographs.

It was golfer (and avid Puma wearer) Rickie Fowler!

I quickly grabbed something from my drawstring pack for him to sign. He must have gone through hundreds of autographs that day, and luckily I got one of them!

With a spring in my step after getting Rickie’s John Hancock, I made my way to No. 18. I watched many groups come through, and finally got to watch as Jason Day was crowned champion with a record-setting score of -20. Day is my mom’s favorite golfer, so it was cool to be there in person to see him win!

It was an amazing week at an amazing venue. I got a chance to be a part of a major golf tournament in a way most people can’t. And, since I finished my shifts at this year’s PGA, I will get first dibs on volunteering at the 2020 Ryder Cup!

I had such a great time volunteering at the 2015 PGA Championship, that I am considering volunteering for the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills as well. It’s just such a unique way to experience all that goes into operating a huge sporting event.

Thanks for the memories, Whistling Straits! See you in 2020!

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