Golf volunteer opportunities are limited in the era of COVID-19

In the fall of 2019, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort started to send out the call to recruit volunteers to assist in conducting the 2020 U.S. Amateur, which is scheduled to be held at the resort in August 2020. The staff at the resort had been told by the USGA that the championship would need more than 700 volunteers in order to fully conduct the event per the standards of this marquee international amateur competition.

Staff was mobilized, partnerships secured, promotions implemented, a volunteer package (hat, shirt, etc.) procured. The resort even offered a free round of golf at the renowned resort to any volunteer who worked enough shifts.

Volunteers played a crucial role at the 2015 U.S. Open held at Chambers Bay.

And then along came COVID-19. Everything was put on pause. Tournaments and championships all over the world began to be postponed, or canceled completely. All the professional tours stopped in their tracks. Amateur championships were canceled. Some amateur golf associations canceled their entire 2020 seasons. Golf stopped.

The Boeing Classic, the annual (and popular) PGA Tour Champions event held at Snoqualmie Ridge east of Seattle, announced the 2020 event would be canceled. The 1,000 volunteers who annually sign up to work the event were all told to wait until 2021.

Then came the announcement on May 18 that the USGA would conduct just four of their championships in 2020 – the U.S. Open, U.S. Women’s Open, U.S. Amateur, and U.S. Women’s Amateur. Their big four championships.

The U.S. Amateur would indeed be held after all at Bandon Dunes in 2020. But there would be two changes: There would be no qualifying for competitors to try to play their way in…..and there would be no volunteers on site to assist in conducting the championship.

So that was that. The resort contacted all 700+ volunteers, some of whom work the U.S. Amateur every year no matter where in the country it is held, and told them that, unfortunately, due to the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and out of concern for the safety and health of all, that it would not be possible to have their assistance this year.

The U.S. Amateur is just one of many amateur and professional events that have made the similar decision about not utilizing volunteers. Last week the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge, held at venerable Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, was the first tournament held on the tour since March 12. And the event was held without fans, without grandstands – and without the several hundred volunteers it usually utilizes.

The golf community is a giving community. It is a social community. And the game is the common bond. The ripple effect of the pandemic continues to impact the game, as participation via volunteering continues to be limited.

But we continue to look for ways to be involved. And we know the doors will open, and golf will again be held in its full capacity. We will be patient. And we will wait. And we will continue to love the game.

Washington Golf provides opportunities for volunteers to get involved in a number of areas. Click here for a list of volunteer opportunities with WA Golf.

Tom Cade is the editor of Pacific Northwest Golfer magazine, which is published by the Pacific Northwest Golf Association (PNGA). He is also the senior director of communications for the PNGA and Washington Golf. From 2010-2015 he served as president of the Northwest Golf Media Association, and in 2016 received the NWGMA Distinguished Service Award. He was the editor and publisher of America’s St. Andrews, the best-selling book about Chambers Bay and the 2015 U.S. Open. He also was editor of the Centennial history book for Inglewood Golf Club (published 2019). He is a regular member of the Golf Writers Association of America.