PALM HARBOR, FLA.— Every winter some lucky Canadians decide to pack their bags and head south to sunny Florida to escape the snow. The warm weather’s appeal eventually fades and the snowbirds eventually get bored.
To escape their boredom some choose to volunteer at the PGA Valspar Championship.
“I’ve been volunteering here, this is my eighth year now,” said Tom Brown, a Canadian from London, Ont.
Brown is a golf fan and enjoys the experience of watching professional golfers go to work.
Years ago Brown found the volunteer opportunity while reading the local newspaper. He met with the volunteer coordinators of the tournament and got the position after a small interview.
“If you have golf knowledge, they prefer (those) people, so you know a little etiquette and things like that,” said Brown.
Since then, he’s become a regular and doesn’t need to be approved every year to volunteer.
Volunteers are used in all areas of the golf course, including the practice area, autograph line, tees at every hole, informational booths, and player crossings.
It takes 700 volunteers to make the tournament run smoothly through the practice rounds and the weekend of play at Innisbrook A. Salamander Golf Course.
Surprisingly, 14 per cent of the volunteers are Canadians.
“It takes a lot of volunteers to run a tournament, and of the 700, I would say probably, in the neighbourhood of 100 are Canadians, so it’s quite a few.” said Brown.
Like Brown, Art Yeo is another one of the Canadian volunteers at the Valspar Championship. Yeo is from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and drives down I-75 every October to escape the cold.
“This is my sixth (year) and I enjoy it. We get to see what we see on TV, get to see up close. We get amazed at how good they really are,” Yeo said with a small grin as he anticipates the eventful weekend ahead.
Fortunately for these Canadians, they’re able to watch many of the top golfers compete while they’re volunteering.
The RBC Canadian Open played at Glen Abbey Golf Course in Oakville, Ont., is the only PGA event in Canada every year. So, unless they live nearby or are willing to travel, there’s only one opportunity to see the pros first-hand.