On Friday, my first summer as liaison for one of the Buffalo District Golf Association’s Friday leagues concluded. As has been written, not with a bang, but a whimper. The round was called off, due to rain and threat of lightning. It was a fitting end to a curious season, most of whose curiosity was caused by me. In spite of the unexpected, I recognized the value of volunteerism in junior golf and the opportunities that exist in western New York.
For years, club pros told me, they have directed the Friday League (or interclub, as it also known) without a guaranteed liaison. The task of coordinating the four divisions has been the responsibility of the BDGA’s summer interns. This year, the job belonged to Patrick Fahey, also an accomplished player. Patrick explained to me that my responsibilities would vary, depending on the needs of each course/club. His only concern was that scores should make it to his office promptly.
A step back at this point seems appropriate. I should mention that I’m on the BDGA board of directors. I do more listening than directing, mind you. The BDGA hosts a number of summer events and can always use spotters and other volunteers to help ease play. The b.o.d. was my entry into the world of interclub.
The season began the final week of June. Of course, I had planned to be out of town that Friday and was able to elicit a guarantee from Pat that he would find a way to work around it. He did and I showed up, bright and early, on Friday number two. When I walked through the pro shop door, the assistant was amazed that I existed. It seems that this particular division hadn’t had a liaison for a few seasons, so the staff would take turns playing different roles, to make sure that the competition came off as planned
Another aside: Interclub involves teams of 4 Juniors and 4 Subjuniors, typically boys. Girls may play, as long as they hit from the same tees as the other competitors. The low three scores count for each bracket and the teams earn points each week. At season’s end, a championship is held, pitting the top teams from each of the four divisions at both levels.
That particular week, the assistant had an abundance of tasks to complete in the shop, so I received a prompt baptism. I served as starter, rules elaborator, marshal and score collector. The weather was perfect and the day went off without a hitch. After the final group of subjunior players teed off, I began to make the rounds of a beautiful course. I would gauge how much time/space should exist between groups and would let the slackers know that they were off pace and needed to move their feet quicker.
Marshaling a golf tournament can be exquisite or tedious, from a golfer’s perspective. On one hand, you drive repeatedly around a beautiful course and begin to see the nuances of holes from multiple perspectives. You appreciate the work that the architect and the ground’s crew dedicate to the design and upkeep of the terrain. On the other hand, you don’t get to hit any shots to practice what you’ve learned.
It was at this point that my personal train began to leave the tracks. Interclub would be played on a Monday that week, I read, a day on which I had a tournament scheduled. As a result, I called ahead to the club and let the organizers know that I would not be on site to assist. The usual notion that they hadn’t expected my assistance reminded me that I was helpful but not critical in the grand scheme of things. The golfers played, good competition was had and on we went to week four.
Except week four actually took place during week three. Come again? That’s what I said. I was out and about on Friday, July 12th, when I happened to glance at the schedule. Why? To ascertain where I would be the next Friday. I noticed an event scheduled for that particular Friday. IMPOSSIBLE! I cried. We had already played that Monday. Yet it was true and I was guilty of leaving a club on the hook. I phoned in my regrets and once again “We have a liaison?” was the response. My handlers needed to do a better job of announcing my importance and reminding me when to be where.
Week five (which was really the fourth week of the season) brought me to a very diligent shop in a well-organized space. My services were not needed in the capacity I had known two weeks before, as this joint brought a table, speakers and microphone to the first tee, to announce pairings and provide information. I was handed the task of marshaling. I began to notice that a few competitors were amazed that someone existed to hold them to a proper pace. “It’s just Friday league,” they muttered. True, I thought, but it is a competition and you are interested in playing competitive golf. Therefore, pick up your feet and move.
Week six took place on a Tuesday, but this time, I had done my reading and was prepared. This day coincided with a regional qualifier, so attendance was sparse. If we have eight groups of golfers in total, that was a lot. What was interesting here was, the practice range was located an eight of a mile from the putting green, which was another eighth of a mile from the first tee. The shop had brought in an assistant to work for 2 hours, so he and I team-texted to keep the golfers moving from range to green to first tee. We were smooth, if I may be so bold.
Week seven was another lost opportunity. I had another, previously-scheduled commitment, so once again, regrets were phoned in. Week eight was the rain-out and here we are.
Part of junior golf is the escape from over-bearing parents. Helicopter parents that stalk their offspring, charting every shot and berating the youth with game-improvement tasks that are impossible for all but the most elite professionals, are becoming more common sights. And yet, those abandoned golfers are in need of an adult presence, albeit only in the form of a disconnected marshal or referee. Someone to lay down the law and then hold them to it, from a distance. In this way, the kids learn to govern themselves, based on tenets established by sagacious minds.
In other words, I can’t wait for 2014.