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    • Hard Work U. Earning Their Keep as Legends of Golf Beneficiary

    • Fred Funk and Mark Calcavecchia’s week consisted of waiting tables and feeding baby calves. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) Fred Funk and Mark Calcavecchia’s week consisted of waiting tables and feeding baby calves. (Chris Condon/PGA TOUR)

    Top of the Rock, the Jack Nicklaus-designed par 3 golf course at Big Cedar Lodge, is aptly named with its unique location atop a ridge overlooking Table Rock Lake. This is the first ever event of this magnitude in the laid-back Ozark Mountains near Branson, Missouri.

    For the past 18 years, the PGA TOUR has had great success with sponsor, volunteer, and spectator support about an hour north in Springfield, Missouri, with the successful Price Cutter Charity Classic on the Web.com Tour.

    When the Big Cedar Lodge Legends of Golf presented by Bass Pro Shops announcement was made just months before the June tournament date, there was a sense of urgency from the start. But in true Ozark fashion, things seem to get done just in the nick of time.

    “We announced this event just about 90 days ago,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem. “The work that has been done here to prepare for this event is terrific.”

    One of the bigger challenges was the nearly 1,000 volunteers needed to effectively manage the event. Not an easy task in a tourism driven area that is in the height of its season during the month of June.  

    No problem. Nearby College of the Ozarks, one of the primary charitable beneficiaries of the Legends of Golf event, had the solution. Students at College of the Ozarks are required to work their way through school running the various enterprises at the college including a restaurant, lodging facility, museum, and dairy barn. In fact, the school is so adamant about preparing its students to enter the work force with an edge on the competition, they don’t allow students to take out loans to pay for tuition.

    “As soon as they made the announcement that we were the charitable beneficiary I jumped on board as the general tournament chairman of volunteers and started recruiting all of our amazing people over at the college,” said Chris Larsen, Dean of Work Education for College of the Ozarks.  “That was about 45 days before the event.”

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    First year events are always challenged to build a volunteer base to help with the dozens of tasks that must be performed during tournament week. The initial request in the community was for approximately 1,000 volunteers that could be utilized. That may seem like a large number, but keep in mind the Legends of Golf is being contested on two courses which are a little more than four miles apart.

    In all, a large percentage of the volunteer staff at the event comes from College of the Ozarks.

    “We’ve got nearly 300 people from the college out here volunteering. Our campus is pretty much at a standstill this week,” Larsen said.

    College of the Ozarks, affectionately named Hard Work U. by the Wall Street Journal, is extremely unique. Students are required to participate in two 40 hour work weeks per year, and an additional 15 hours per week while school is in session, to help pay their way through college. The goal is to have graduates leave with real world job skills and no debt.

    Champions Tour players Mark Calcavecchia and Fred Funk toured the school during the week and were provided an opportunity to see how good old Hard Work U. operates.

    “This is a special place. The kids here are amazing. They’re all working to get out of here debt free with a good education,” Calcavecchia said.

    Both Funk and Calcavecchia waited tables in the college restaurant, picked vegetables in the garden, and fed baby calves.

    “One thing I learned from this is that it isn’t easy,” Calcavecchia added. “You kind of take it for granted when people are waiting on you. When I was the waiter there was a lot of pressure involved. I’ve got a new appreciation, for sure, for waiters.”

    In addition to the volunteer staff, there was a tremendous amount of work to be done in terms of finish detail around the Top of the Rock facility at Big Cedar Lodge. Many area craftsmen, and other locals, have pitched in to help.

    "The Table Rock Lake community is so happy to welcome the Legends of Golf to our area and help make this an outstanding event," said Sheila Thomas, Executive Director of the Table Rock Lake Chamber of Commerce. "From the moment of the announcement, everyone around this area has stepped up and helped bring this event to fruition. We're pleased to have this opportunity to share the beauty of Table Rock Lake."

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