First Tee Course Reporters: Charles Schwab Cup C'ship

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November 02, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

Nov. 2, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Champions Tour By Edward Nguyen

It takes a lot of people to run a major golf event, and the Charles Schwab Cup Championship is no exception. More than 400 volunteers will be working throughout the week to ensure that all aspects of the tournament run smoothly. Volunteers include standard bearers, marshals, walking scorers, and even individuals picking up the professionals from the airport. In addition, there are many working personnel from the PGA TOUR who work with volunteers to build tournaments from the ground up.

During the tournament I had the chance to meet Tournament Director and Head of Rules Gene Smith, who starts his day at 5 a.m. to run the event inside the ropes. He and his staff are in charge of deciding the pace of play for the golfers in the tournament. He decides on the pairings and creates the time sheets for the players. His job daily is time consuming, from waking up at five in the morning to heading home at six in the afternoon. He spends 28 to 30 weeks in the year working as the rules official. What he enjoys about his work are the people that he gets to meet, from TOUR players and volunteers, to the charities that benefit from tournaments on the PGA TOUR. Smith says that since 1938, the PGA TOUR has raised $1.5 billion. In addition, he enjoys traveling the world to work in what he considers the greatest job in the world.

In the Champions Tour scoring truck, we met five dedicated individuals who keep the scores updated and available to the media. This vehicle travels nationwide to events on the Champions Tour. Inside this media van are a variety of wires, equipment, servers, and electronics that are used to post live updates to scoreboards. The staff rotates jobs within this truck including running programs to determine prize winnings, keeping network servers up, and fixing errors in the field. For the scoring staff, every day is different.

Meteorologist Willis Young has one of the most interesting and vital responsibilities. He is in charge of updating the weather reports for PGA TOUR events. A reoccurring theme among the officials we Junior Course Reporters have interviewed today is the issue with bad weather. Weather affects all aspects of a tournament, and there is nothing that participants can do about it. This is where Young comes in. He analyzes data from local meteorology reports and writes up a synopsis of what players and staff should expect. He has been in the business of predicting these forecasts for 14 years. During that time, he has advised rules officials to call off play just seven times. "Weeks like [these] are pretty normal, but I have seen all sorts of weather - floods, dust storms, smoke, fire and even tornados," Young told me.

The fitness trucks were another interesting location we visited. Under the management of Director of Fitness Paul Schueren, medical assistance and exercise conditioning are provided for the players on the TOUR. Injured players go into these trucks for clinical needs as well. During the regular season, he sees all of the players at least once. Schueren began driving these fitness trucks for the Champions Tour in 1988 and says that best compliments he could receive are from players who need assistance and end up performing well during the tournament.

Agronomy Consultant Jim Abate has one of the most important jobs on the Champions Tour as well. He works throughout tournament week ensuring that the grass is in playable condition and determines the environmental impact that players' requirements will have on the course. Abate says that he enjoys his work because he likes getting outside rather than working in the routine setting of an office.

Of course, what makes golf enjoyable are the players. We ended the day with the unique opportunity to attend Tom Lehman's press conference. He expects to play his best this week, but says he will be a happy man either way. At the moment, he is the money list and points leader on the Champions Tour. If he can win this week, he'll be the first player to win on all three Tours, the Nationwide Tour, PGA TOUR and Champions Tour. For Lehman, there was no plan B. He set a deadline for himself in 1991 to either make it or break it. He said that he needed to find his "big break and get over the hump." Fortunately, he won the Ben Hogan Tour that year, and since then has talked about the confidence he has been developing since the age of 18. It struck me that, as with Mr. Lehman, we should all strive to do our best ... without a plan B.

Champions Tour staff comes to San Francisco By Hannah Lozinski

The Charles Schwab Cup Championship is held Nov. 3-6. However, for this tournament alone, workers from the Championship Tour have been planning for more than a year. They help make sure the tournament goes off without a hitch with approximately 400 volunteers and trailers that contain everything from fitness rooms and clinics to agronomy.

As a Junior Course Reporter, I first met the group in the Champions Tour trailer. Five workers, who come from all over the United States, regularly travel in the trailer and control the computers and all the data coming in from tournaments. However, they regularly switch their positions, which range from "advancing," or being the main tournament contact, to publishing reports from the event. One of the most important aspects of their jobs is calculating the amount of money each player on the Tour earns during events. They also make sure that data entered by the walking scorers is correct, and they facilitate communication among the volunteers. "You go to a lot of neat places, and meet a lot of neat people," said Jenny Eckert, who is the tournament operations coordinator/producer.

In the next trailer, I was introduced to one of the official Champions Tour meteorologists, Willis Young. Young's responsibility is to monitor the weather patterns during tournaments, using both his own forecasts and local updates from other sources to be able to warn other personnel in case of storms.

We also met Tournament Director and Rules Official Gene Smith. Smith is in charge of running the tournament inside of the ropes, and handles evacuations in case of storms. His committee sets up the course before a tournament, creates the pairings, makes sure players keep up pace of play, and also act as referees to make rulings. Like the Champions Tour Truck workers, Young and Smith travel to different tournaments across the world.

Every tournament requires a significant amount of work and planning "It's almost like a traveling city," Operations Manager Chad Burgess said. In addition to the multitude of traveling workers who need lodging, the Champions Tour also needs to set up trucks, trailers, signs, fencing, and provide official cars. For larger TOUR events, the planning can take up to six months to set up, and eight weeks to take down. Next we headed to the fitness trailer, which is used as mobile clinic and fitness center for the players.

Helping to facilitate the tournament set up are the administrators in Tournament Services, who cover everything non-golf related in the tournament, including food, furniture, and volunteers. In their temporary building, there was a special office for Agronomy Director Jim Abate. Agronomy is the science of grass, and is a vital part of every golf tournament. As an agronomist, Abate manages the condition of the course, making sure that it is in the best shape for golfers.

On the Champions Tour alone, many people work for weeks at a time, traveling across the country, and even abroad. Meeting all these people made me understand how widespread and global the PGA TOUR and Champions Tours are, and how much effort goes into a single event. One tournament is the culmination of a year's worth of work from both volunteers and Tour officials, who work tirelessly to make sure everything goes smoothly.

Going behind the scenes...and a Fig By Nina Avroneva

On an unusually sunny day for San Francisco, we started on an exciting day behind the scenes of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. We started by visiting the Champions Tour trailer, which is very important to the tournament. Tournament Operations Coordinator Jenny Eckert showed us the complicated and interesting way that they keep the correct score for various tournaments. One of the most memorable aspects of the trailer was probably meeting the head honcho, Keith "Fig" Newton.

Next on our list was the volunteer headquarters and the meteorologist office. Volunteers are critical to the operation of a tournament. Volunteers serve as standard bearers and walking scorers not to mentions all the committees and staff. After learning about the volunteer functions, we headed to the meteorologist office where we met Head Meteorologist Willis Young. Young told us about the importance of being prepared for sudden weather changes so he can alert the officials and begin evacuations, which can take 30-40 minutes.

Our next stop was visiting Tournament Director and Head Rules Official Gene Smith, who told us about his responsibilities. Among other things, Smith chooses the daily hole locations, and provides all of the players and caddies with the yardage and hole positions. Smith also releases the "raguzzi," named by Smith himself, which lets the team know how long the players' rounds should take at TPC Harding Park. According to Smith it should take about three hours and 40 minutes. Smith also oversees rulings and helps with various situations involving the players. Smith expressed how important it is to prepare for inclement weather, and also stressed how important giving back to the community is for all tournaments on the PGA TOUR. He told us that the three Tours have donated $1.5 billion to charity. Now that is amazing!

Continuing on our behind the scenes tour, we met Chad Burgess, one of the operations managers. His job is to take his crew and turn an ordinary golf course into a golf tournament. He is involved in every aspect of the event, including security, national TV, local broadcasting, AC's, bathrooms, cars and facilities. His job is probably one of the most important and crucial to the tournament. He shared with us that it could take up to six weeks to build up a small tournament and six months to build a large tournament. Burgess has to make sure that all the facilities and stairs are approved by the ADA, and he works with the local city officials to make sure everything is planned correctly. He ended our meet-up by saying that the thing that he loves most about his job is that he wakes up every morning and thinks "What am I going to do today?'

After a short walk we ended up in front of the fitness and medical trailers, where we met Paul Schueren, who took us through both trailers. The medical trailer is where all players are free to warm up with a bicycle or walking machine, and they can also come if they are experiencing any pain. They have all kinds of interesting machines including ultrasounds and wax treatment for cracked hands, which is really helpful, as we got to try it. They also provide clothes and shoes for special use of the fitness rooms and medical cares.

We finally met up with Director of Agronomy Jim Abate, whose job it is to test and determine the health of the grass and course. Abate also mentioned that a huge issue for the course is bad weather, especially rain. He also told us that the best compliment is that "If they're not talking about the course, then we did our job right."

Today was an amazing experience and the cherry on top was getting to sit in on a press conference with Tom Lehman. I feel very grateful to the PGA TOUR for allowing us to experience this unique opportunity.

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COURSE REPORTER BIOGRAPHIES

EDWARD NGUYEN

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17-year-old Edward Nguyen is a senior at Mission San Jose High School, where he received the RBS Achievers of the Year award. He has participated in The First Tee of San Jose's program for four years and is also a member of the ACE program -- where he has been awarded numerous opportunities to participate in programs including the New Links program in St. Andrews, Scotland. In addition to playing the Old Course, the Jubilee Course and the Strathtyrum Course, he had the chance to visit the Royal and Ancient Club, where he received a sneak peek at historical golf pieces and spoke with some of the members. When he isn't on the golf course, Edward pursues his interests in law, business and computer science. Other sports interests include water polo and swimming.

HANNAH LOZINSKI

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Hannah Lozinski has been involved with The First Tee since its inception in San Jose, Calif., and is also a participant in the ACE program, where she has been actively volunteering as a junior coach the past four years. This past summer, Hannah was selected to participate in The First Tee Life Skills and Leadership Academy in Phoenix, Ariz. Hannah is a senior at Valley Christian High School, where she is the founding member of the girls' golf team, maintains a 4.3 GPA and is editor-in-chief of her school newspaper.

NINA AVRONEVA

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Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, 13-year-old Nina Avroneva is an eighth grader at California Virtual Academy in San Francisco. She has been involved in The First Tee of San Francisco's junior golf program for three years,and during the past year, has begun assisting the coaches with the Little Linksters and Par classes. Nina is fluent in Bulgarian, Russian and Spanish, and in addition to golf, enjoys acting, photography, writing, skiing and traveling.

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