Hope diary

Dear Diary

I had thought that last year, the first year of the tournament at its new home course, set a new standard for disorganization. I was wrong. Very wrong. The scene at Volunteer Headquarters at 7:15am was chaos bordering on insanity. They had carefully put up signs in 12-inch letters for each of the groups of volunteers who was checking in: marshals, scorers, shotlink, etc. The only thing is, they put them at shoulder height, which meant that when 200 people all crowded into the barn that is the headquarters, that meant that there were 200 shoulders in front of all the signs. They ran out of coffee, which is simply unforgiveable. They ran out of pairing sheets, which is inexcusable. The 2007 pins for our caps had not arrived from the manufacturer. They have known the tournament dates for a whole year and that it was going to be 2007. Hello? This is not rocket science! I could be expected to take offense at anything less than optimal organization, but I was not alone. I lost track of the number of people who exclaimed, "I've been doing this for  x  years and this is the worst!

In contrast to last year when I had the exact same assignment all five days of the tournament, this year I have four different assignments, plus a day off on celebrity day. (The celebrities have their own volunteer marshals who travel from course to course with them. We hoi polloi can't be trusted in the presence of a Celebrity!

9th hole - note cart-path "crossover"

I hopped on the shuttle out to the 9th hole, thinking that my assignment — "9 x-over (gate)" — meant the transition area from the 8th green to the 9th tee. However, once I got there, the configuration didn't match my expectations in the least, so I headed down to the 9th green, thinking that perhaps the "x-over" was between the 9th green and 10th tee. The 9th green is in front of one of the grandstands, and there was no gate. Eventually, one of the other volunteers said that my assignment might refer to the place where the cart path crosses the fairway — sure enough, there was a gate on each side, as described.

Considering that perhaps 75 people, total, followed players around the course on the first day, this was a completely superfluous and essentially boring job. Oh well.

Topping it all off, it was absolutely frigid — play started late because of a "frost delay." There was ice around the edges of the ponds, and the wind seemed to come straight off some iceberg. By the time the last group had passed my station, the sun had gone down behind the mountain, and I was chilled to the bone. I didn't get warm until I spent a couple of hours wrapped in blankets on the couch watching TV that night.

Hope or hopeless? When I checked in I found that I was the designated paddle person for the 9th tee. The only hitch was, they had lost some of the paddles on the first day, so there was no paddle to give me. I should use a pairing sheet, they said. Well, the good news was they at least still had copies of the pairing sheets. Is it possible that a tournament that has been running for 46 years has exactly 18 paddles per golf course? Inconceivable.

5-year pin

They were also organized enough to give me my five-year pin. The 2007 pin is still not available, but I do have my five-year pin.

At the tee, I meet my co-workers for the day. There's Jim, whose sole job is to find out the scores for each foursome as they arrive at the tee and radio those scores to the people running the big electronic scoreboards. There's Pappy Yokum, assigned to operate the gate across the cartpath at the entrance to the tee. You will understand, of course, that the "gate" is a piece of yellow rope to stretch across the opening. I call him Pappy Yokum because he was to spend the entire day puffing on a corncob pipe. And then there was Carla whose assignment had been shifted to the 9th tee at the last minute, but who really didn't have a job. After a couple of groups had passed, it was completely obvious that the second gate on the other side of the tee was completely useless, since it was about 30 yards away from the tees used by the amateurs. Carla disappeared soon thereafter.

The good news is that as the day progressed I got better at tracking the balls so I could signal to the spotters down the fairway where to look for the balls. In contrast to the first day, the second day was sunny with only a slight breeze from time to time. I soon took off my jacket and settled for just my vest over the uniform shirt.

And, in today's pairing sheet, the slot for the mysterious "Celeb #1" was filled by the name Chris Tucker. I have no idea.

When I arrived at Volunteer Headquarters to check in, I was given a radio. "Oh, good," said I facetiously, "I can listen to people ask where their lunch is!"

"Oh, no, just leave it off."

"If I have it off, how will I be able to hear if you call me?"

"If we need you, we'll come out there to you."

"Why, then, do I need a radio?"

Classic Club holes 9 and 18

And so began a miserable day at the 9th green. I had fine co-workers for the day. John had been sent to that hole with the sole job of telling players to exit the green on their way to the 10th tee through a tunnel under the grandstand. Easier said than done. Just try getting a professional golfer and his caddy to enter a dark passageway when a row of shuttle carts is sitting a short distance away. The first foursome ignored John's instructions and headed for the carts, which promptly took them to the 1st tee. You see, the 18th green and the 9th green are side-by-side in front of the grandstands. Those who start play on the 1st tee go from 9 to 10 and will eventually finish at 18. Those who started play on the 10th tee go from 18 to 1 and will later finish at 9.

Clearly there was a problem. John decided he would tell the next group where the exit was when they entered the green. That sort of worked. They got to the tunnel and stopped, dubious about entering the unknown. John hustled over to herd them in.

While the next group was approaching the green, a tournament muckety-muck in a leather logoed jacket came up to me to remind me that we were to make the players leave via the tunnel. I explained, nicely, that it was difficult to get professional golfers to enter an unmarked dark passageway. "Just tell them," was the answer. I then assured him we had done that, but they do have a mind of their own and are loathe to take direction from people they know are working for nothing and may know nothing besides. A sign, I pointed out, would be helpful. "OK." He got on his walkie-talkie and soon a sign appeared next to the passageway. It said simply "TENTH TEE," nothing else.

Meanwhile, John had decided that it was too easy for them to avoid him if he stood by the bridge as they entered, so he would go to the other side of the bridge where they couldn't so easily get by him.

After a couple more groups had gone through our green, John came over and said, "You must have clout around here." He answered my puzzled look by pointing at the sign. It had been enhanced with a PGA logo and a big black arrow pointing into the tunnel.

"I guess he must have noticed my 5-year pin," I replied by way of explanation, tongue firmly in cheek.

Also at the 9th green were two long-time volunteers in charge of the leader board, which isn't a leader board at all, since it simply shows the standing of the next group that will arrive at the green.

We all bonded together over the shared experience of simply frightfully frigid weather, chilled by a cold wind under dark and ominous skies. Except for Phil Mickelson, who had a gallery of perhaps 250 people following him, only a handful of spectators braved the elements to watch at the 9th. Those who could sheltered in the grandstands. Even the Golf Channel cameraman ventured into his aerie only for a couple of groups.

cc09 9th hole at the Classic Club

The 9th green is surrounded on three sides by water— a veritable peninsula as it were. As you might expect, with a stiff wind and all this water, a number of balls ended up in the water, and not just those of the amateurs either. The very first pro to approach 18 ended up in the water, and he had to take off his shoes and wade into what had to be shockingly cold water to fetch his ball so he could replay the shot. There must be a rule about this, because it was the pro himself who went wading, not his caddy. In a cruel twist of fate, that same pro again landed in the water when he reached the 9th hole to finish and had to go wading again for at least the second time that day. I almost felt sorry for him. Actually, I did feel sorry for him because it was miserably cold.

spectators from Montana You doubt it was cold? These spectators are from Montana!
A picture from The Desert Sun, taken at the 9th green
More Friday photos from The Desert Sun

Although this was my seventh tournament, it was the first time I had ever worked the final hole, and I was surprised to observe another little custom. After each group finished, the amateurs reached into their pockets to fetch crisp $100 bills (usually two of them) to tip the pro's caddy. I may have to come out of retirement to take up professional caddying; it seems to pay quite well!

Nah! Life is way too good as it is.

Gerald Ford was a big supporter of the Bob Hope golf tournament, and this year's pairing sheets contain a full-page of photographs in his memory.

Palmer, Hope, Ford Arnold Palmer, Bob Hope, and Gerald Ford
Ford Gerald Ford

I'll make no comment about the attire in these two pictures; they speak for themselves. See the complete page (PDF).

I have Saturday off, so my next assignment will be on Sunday, when only the top pros will play.

Wind is a four-letter word. Mother Nature was not kind to the Hope tournament this year. The final day began with a brisk wind that only got worse. I had come prepared with my down vest tucked into my bag; it didn't stay there long. I don't know how fast the winds were. I do know they were strong enough to raise white caps on the pond alongside the fairway. The commentary on the PGA website says there were gusts to 35-40mph. I would say, "at least."

16th fairway view

My assignment for Sunday was the left side of the 16th fairway. The right side of the fairway is bordered by a small lake, pictured right. Funny about that car — there were plenty of parking spots in the lot when I arrived.

Golf Channel booth Golf Channel booth

If you watched any of the tournament on the Golf Channel, the "studio" portions were broadcast from a booth behind my left shoulder. The view that you saw behind the people was the 16th fairway. Lucky ducks, they had forced air heating in their booth.

The short slideshow will give you a panoramic view of my area.

As far as marshaling goes it was an uneventful day. Few spectators ventured into the wind, and the galleries were small until the final groups came through. Phil Mickelson is one of the most popular players on the tour and, of course, he had his customary following of a couple hundred people.

Charley Hoffman Charley Hoffman - first win on PGA tour

The winner was Charley Hoffman, who earned his $900,000 paycheck in a playoff against John Rollins. It was Hoffman's first-ever PGA tour win, and he was understandably happy.

Under other circumstances, I would have followed the last group in to watch the end of the tournament, but the wind had made the day so miserable that when the last group cleared the 16th fairway, the fat lady had sung, as far as I was concerned.

Besides, I didn't want to be late for Sunday night bowling.