A few years ago the Nationwide Tour came to the Rattlesnake Golf Club in Newmarket (north of Toronto) for the Samsung Canadian Championship. I had never volunteered for a golf tournament before so I called in and left my number offering my services. A few weeks later I got a call and was asked to come to the club to register and pick up credentials and instructions.
That weekend I drove up to the course, signed my name on the volunteer registry and exchanged $25 for a PGA Tour hat and a beige on beige golf shirt that was to be my uniform for the tournament. As a volunteer I got free parking and unlimited access to the grounds. I was to show up at 10:00am each day and I would be given my assignment.
Although the tournament was still weeks away, I dared not don the cap or shirt for fear that I was betraying some secret tournament superstition. I wasn`t able to participate in day one or two of the tournament but I did show up at 10:00am on Day 3. I looked around at the other volunteers and soon realized that those who had come for the first two rounds probably already had the plum jobs. I slumped in my chair fearing that I would be left to wave cars to empty parking spots in the field across the street, missing the golf altogether.
I sat with a couple who had come those first two days and soon discovered there were three jobs that everyone wanted. The first was Å“scorer – the person who got to walk inside the ropes with the players relaying their scores via radio back to HQ. The second most coveted job was Å“standard bearer. That is the person who carries the placards that announce to the fans what the score of the players in that pairing are. The third most coveted job was working for The Golf Channel. There were a number of positions that needed to be filled with the television station and I was assured that they`d take me if I stuck my hand up.
As if on cue, one of The Golf Channel`s production assistants walked into the tent, surveyed the room and announced that they needed soundmen. My arm leapt from my lap and I was the first of five recruits chosen. We were taken to the production truck where the sound engineer handed us all boom mics, headphones and transmission boxes. He then gave us a quick run-through of the equipment and handed out our assignments. I was to cover shot #2 on the par 5 11th hole.
But, before we headed out to cover our positions we were all handed the single greatest prize possible. We were given what amounts to the holy grail for any and all golf fans. Before we headed out onto the course, each of us was given our very own Golf Channel baseball cap! Yes! These hats, off white with a bold stylized Å“G on the front, told everyone else that we were special. We were the chosen ones. We were now distinguishably from all of the other volunteers but indistinguishable from all the other Golf Channel employees.
With our hats in place and our sound equipment slung over our shoulders we scattered ourselves around the course. We walked tall and proud “ feeling like gods!
I found my position and waited for the first group to come through. My job was to get as close as possible to each of the players to try and pick up their conversation with their caddies. The disembodied voice of the sound engineer asked me to check my microphone. I started singing The Spoons` Å“Romantic Traffic. You know, the Å“doo, doo, doo, doo part. I heard some chuckles from the truck and they asked me to stop.
When some action finally came my way I let caddies guide me to the place their players would be most comfortable. I also kept an eye on the camera in the tower pointed down the fairway. I wanted to make sure I was getting some solid screen time.
One of the benefits of being inside the ropes is having a chance to see great players hit remarkable shots. You also get to see them stub and flub shots too which makes you feel better about yourself as a player. I also got to see one guy stuff a 5 iron next to the pin from 220 and still be upset with the way he hit the shot.
About an hour into my shift there was a huge gap between two groups. My feet started aching as I waited for the next players and I started walking around the rough trying to determine if I could get my ball out the thick. The grass had to be at least 8 inches. I had my head down looking at the grass when a voice came over my headset.
Å“Steve? Steve? Are you there?
I turned the boom towards me and said Å“Yeah, I`m here.
Å“Steve. We`re getting some static on your microphone.
Å“What do you want me to do, I asked.
Å“Well, we`ve been watching you on the monitor. If you`re going to walk around the rough like that, do you mind not dragging the boom through the grass? God, was I embarrassed. I guess my arm had dropped and the microphone was wading through the thicket with me. Luckily I wasn`t pulled from my position and was allowed to return the next day. but this time they kept me out of the rough.
Day 4 of the tournament passed without any mic mishaps from yours truly. When the last group went through I was relieved of my duties. I quickly returned my equipment to the production truck and then headed out onto the course. I wanted to take advantage of my status as a Golf Channel insider to walk inside the ropes with the final group. I got to watch as Aaron Oberholser finished off his round for his first nationwide victory. Later that night I watched The Golf Channel highlights. There I was, walking stride to stride with the champion as he made his final climb to the 18th green.
For the rest of the summer The Golf Channel hat came with me for every round I played. I can`t count the number of times I was asked if I worked for the Golf Channel. I took the opportunity to say that I had been a boom mic operator and regaled my playing partners with stories from the Nationwide Tour. I retired the tournament shirt before too long. The cut and color were too conservative for me and, frankly, the tournament was old news already.
These days, I watch tournament highlights on The Golf Channel looking for any sign of Aaron Olberhouser . When I see him I reminisce about that time we were all connected “ The Golf Channel, Aaron and Me. That time I worked for The Golf Channel.