Written by Debora Toth Friday, 03 July 2009 00:00
What better way to see Tiger Woods and other top professional golfers on one of the world’s most challenging courses at a U.S. Open for free than to volunteer for one of the local charities running a concession stand? That was the decision my daughter and I made when we signed up to volunteer for Friends of Farmingdale Athletics and help out at their concession stand on Friday, June 19.
As a participating volunteer organization, FFA (and the other local non-profit organizations chosen by the USGA) benefits from a fundraising opportunity that supports the athletic programs at Farmingdale Senior High School and Howitt Middle School. In 2002, when FFA last participated, the group was able to raise a “healthy” amount of funds due to the efforts of the volunteers involved. Generally, the tournament day begins at 6 a.m. and concludes at 6 p.m. As a volunteer, you are asked to work in the concession tent either the first six hours or the last six hours of a tournament day or days as you choose. You also receive a food voucher for a cheeseburger, hot dog, or chicken sandwich, fruit or candy bar, canned soda or water, and a bag of chips. The other six hours are your free time to watch the tournament and the pro golfers as a bonus for your volunteer efforts.
While the volunteers who were chosen by the USGA to man the course and bleachers were required to purchase USGA-approved clothing (which I heard totaled nearly $150), our only requirement was to wear khaki pants and a white-collared shirt. We also attended a short training session from PROM Management Group detailing the job, where we park, USGA rules, such as no cell phones or cameras, and their expectations.
After days of pouring rain, soggy greens, and muddy fields, our day turned out to be one of the best. The cloudy skies turned to one of the sunniest days of the championship. Since our shift didn’t start till 12 noon, we arrived early, checked in at the PROM Management Group volunteer staffing desk where we received our free $100 ticket, and began to make our way down to the course. Our favorite spot was the area around the 15th through 17th holes where you see the players cross Round Swamp Road. As we arrived we got a fantastic view of Tiger Woods from about 20 feet away on the 16th hole.
We arrived at our concession tent near the 16th hole, signed in, put on our aprons, and got to work. We were assigned to help Joe, who was manning one of the cash registers. While I helped as a runner getting the orders to each of Joe’s customers, my daughter manned the back wall filling every cashier’s orders for drinks, sandwiches, and snacks. I also learned how to put through credit card orders. From the moment we started, there was a massive sea of people waiting patiently in each line and for the rest of our shift, the customers never diminished. Joe was one of the fastest cashiers, keeping the line moving, quickly giving change, and keeping the mood light. Even though we didn’t know any of the other volunteers, everyone was friendly and kidded each other.
During our shift, the camaraderie among the volunteers was palpable. Even though we were working in tight quarters, everyone was courteous and moved quickly and diligently intent on their jobs. Many of us did double-duty when we learned that some volunteers had not shown up for their shift. Outside of the tent, Frank Nocerino, president of FFA, helped to grill the burgers and hot dogs, ensuring that all the meats were cooked to the correct temperature with a cooking thermometer. Inside in the back a group of volunteers assembled the sandwiches and brought them out to the heated covered dishes. Two men were perched at their tapped beer stand where they filled glass after glass of $6 Budweiser and Michelob Ultra. PROM management supervisors oversaw the entire operation and helped with any problems or questions. All the while, as we continued to work, we’d hear the roar of the crowds as another golfer made a great shot near us.
At the end of our shift, Joe was proud that our cash register rang up $12,000 in sales. He kindly thanked me and my daughter for helping him out. We also collected about $70 in loose change that customers gave to FFA. As for me, my feet hurt and my head was reeling from a non-stop back-and-forth pitching between customers and the buffet line. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I was able to see the greatest golfer in the world (perhaps not on his best day), attend one of the premier golf events for free, and help a charity raise money for local athletes.