By Kaylie Dieterie
Most people in Northeast Florida are familiar with THE PLAYERS, which has been played in Ponte Vedra for nearly 40 years. It’s the biggest event in May and one of the largest annual events that Northeast Florida puts on. However, in the midst of all the fun of the week-long festivities, what you might not know is that there are 2,100-plus volunteers, who ensure the success of the tournament.
Andy Baggs, 2014 tournament chairman, said the volunteers are the “heart and soul of this special event.” Without these hardworking individuals, who represent 37 states and seven foreign countries, THE PLAYERS would not be the success it is, year after year.
Many of these volunteers have been coming out for many years, if not decades. But there’s a new group of young, enthusiastic, passionate individuals who have begun their journey in giving back to the community and continuing to make THE PLAYERS the flagship event of the PGA TOUR.
Rob Davis, assistant chair for the Standard Bearer Committee this year, began volunteering at THE PLAYERS in 2000 when he was in the fifth grade.
“One of the main reasons that I continue to come back year after year is knowing that millions of dollars go to the community and that me being out here makes an impact on that,” said Davis of his long-time commitment to the tournament.
The first year that Davis volunteered, he was just 10 years old, and he was randomly paired with Tiger Woods to be his standard bearer (the person who holds the players’ scoreboard). This definitely served as an inspiration for the fifth grader to continue to volunteer each year.
Now, at age 24, Davis’s 14 years of experience makes him a huge asset to the volunteer team. With so much familiarity with the tournament at such a young age, Davis can excel in his new leadership position and keep other young volunteers motivated to do the same.
Liz Klein, 29, who is volunteering at THE PLAYERS for the fourth time, is serving as chair of the Honorary Observers Committee, which is responsible for helping guests who are allowed inside the ropes, making sure their day at the tournament goes smoothly. Having spent the past years volunteering with Special Events, Klein seems ready to take on her new leadership position.
“The logistics can be a little crazy, but the guests’ excitement is infectious,” she explained. She has an appreciation of the passion of the tournament amongst her fellow volunteers, noting that they are who make the experience of THE PLAYERS unforgettable. “Even though people may be tired and a little sunburned, everyone I meet is happy to help and extremely friendly.”
For 30-year-old Justin Sipes, this will be his second year volunteering as an Assistant Chair with the Admissions Committee, where he serves as the liaison between the committee and the University of North Florida’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life. His unique position allows him to help in the recruitment of students to volunteer at the tournament.
“We are often the first people spectators see when entering THE PLAYERS, and our staff makes sure they they are greeting spectators with big smiles and great customer service as Admissions helps set the tone for the spectator experience,” Sipes explained. He understands the importance of his role at the tournament and wants to make sure that every interaction had with the fans is positive.
“We want to make sure that the spectators enjoy themselves to the point that they come back each day, and year after year,” Sipes added.
There’s no question that these committed individuals put in a tremendous amount of work to make THE PLAYERS such a success, and the fact they all do it with a smile says a lot.
Sipes concluded, “We get a lot done, but we also have a really great time doing it. How else would you consistently recruit 2,100-plus volunteers for a week-long event if you weren’t having a good time in the process?”