Bob Hope Chrysler Classic

Bob Hope Chrysler Classic logo

Quiet please!

I volunteered to work as a marshal at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic golf tournament in Indian Wells during the last week of January. I was assigned to the Indian Wells Country Club, one of four courses used for the tournament.

Mike Weir

The tournament was won by Mike Weir, who walked off with the lion's share of the $4.5 million purse.
Pro results
Amateur results.

This was my third experience playing this role, having worked at the now-defunct Siebel Classic in San Jose for the previous two years. As it turned out, this was a quite different experience.

Marshal college

badge

All new (to the tournament) marshals were required to attend marshal college, a two-hour training session the day before the tournament began. This consisted of a seemingly endless parade of speakers — each of whom had somewhere learned to always start with a joke, and few of whom had learned any funny, relevant jokes — enlightening us on topics such as "green to tee," "long-ball fairway," and "golf tournaments as terrorism soft target," as well as the necessary hand signal to ensure silence and motionlessness (stick 'em up!). We were assured by everyone that they "couldn't do it without" us and that we were vital to the success of the tournament. To ensure that we attended, they withheld the final piece of our uniform (the cap) and credentials until the training.

Celebrity day

link to Indian Wells Country Club page

On Wednesday I dressed in my official marshal's uniform (white logo golf shirt, navy logo windbreaker, tan and blue logo cap, khaki pants, and white shoes) and reported at 7:00am to the Indian Wells Country Club to receive my assignment for the day: driving range. Now basically this involved standing around looking official, preventing spectators from "bothering" the players and celebrities, and quieting any overly raucous fans. No big deal. I can do this. The only problem was that in order to report at 7am I had to get up in the dark and stumble out to the car in the dark for the drive to Indian Wells. This felt way too much like working!

Three observations became immediately apparent:

  • First, celebrities are much harder to identify when their face is not framed in a close-up TV picture or on a movie screen. I did recognize Aaron Brown from CNN, but totally missed other "obvious" ones like Rush Limbaugh and Maury Povich.
  • Second, because you're standing there looking official, the spectators assume you know everyone. "Who's that?" they would whisper, pointing to someone. "I'm sorry, I don't recognize him," I would reply, all the while thinking, "How the hell do I know, he's not wearing a name tag for crying out loud!" Later I would discover that it was Alice Cooper or Ken Griffey Jr or Kevin Sorbo or some teenage idol or .... (there was clearly a generation gap at work)
  • Third, these celebrities could not resist the attractive force of an adoring fan. They were abetted in this by the throngs of media people, permitted free access, who would shuttle between celebrities and their fans along the fence. Invariably the celebrity would then approach the fans and out would pop the cameras (forbidden) and memorabilia (forbidden) for autographs. Given that the celebrities were putting themselves in this situation there was nothing a conscientious marshal could really do except turn a blind eye.

Days 2 through 4

hole six, looking from green back to tee

The celebrities played at Indian Wells on the first day, and, with them moving on to a different course for the following days, the marshals at Indian Wells assumed their regular duties.

I was assigned to the sixth green, seen in the picture at right. It's a short hole, only 140 yards, but with a wide, deep drainage ditch in the middle. Anyone who falls short of the green on their tee shot ends up either in the bunkers or at the bottom of the ditch.

To my surprise, I found that I was the only marshal assigned to this green. In contrast to the Siebel tournament, most tees and greens at the Hope were tended by a single marshal. Only the first, ninth, tenth, and eighteenth holes had a crew of marshals. With the tournament spread out over four courses and with only one pro per foursome, spectators tended to cluster around the holes near the clubhouse, and very few players were accompanied by any kind of gallery. Most of the time there were only three or four spectators at my green, if any at all.

In our training we had been advised to use common sense: "if there's only three people, there's no need to be raising your hands to signal." In reality, however, I got coaching from the chief marshal because I wasn't signaling to the two people watching when he came by my green. So, I went over to them and said, "My boss insists that I have to raise my hands to signal you to be still and quiet, even though there are only two of you and you've been sitting here quietly for an hour without saying a word, so don't take it personally." Big laugh.

The most wonderful thing about working this hole was that I got to see a hole in one by Steve Lowery. It was wonderful — the ball landed about 18 inches from the flag, bounced slightly, then spun back into the cup. This so astonished the three other players in his foursome that none of them even took a shot on that hole!

Each foursome consisted of one pro and three amateurs. Some of the amateurs, in particular, were quite colorful characters dressed in knickers with argyle socks, an argyle sweater-vest, and a Scottish tam. Others were notable for different reasons: lack of physical conditioning, age (we're talking old), or tendency to wear too many gold chains and smoke cigars on the course. Oh yes, some of them were damned good!

A marshal's life

The seventh tee was just across the cart path from my station at the sixth green. Here's my fellow volunteer Bob reporting for work and on the job. He was the lucky duck — he had shade, whereas I had none and had to look into the sun all day to keep track of golf balls coming my way. Bob was a great guy, and I enjoyed working near him.

reporting for work Reporting for work (Click picture to enlarge)
it's a tough job It's a tough job (Click picture to enlarge)