Great memories volunteering at golf event

By PETER GILDERSON,

This was my 19th year volunteering for the local PGA golf tournament, now called the Sanderson Farms Championship at the Jackson Country Club. For my first two years I worked on the major scoreboard which, back then, was displayed behind the final hole at Annandale. My responsibility was to read off the scores from the players' score cards to a calligrapher who entered them on the scoreboard.

Then I heard about the job of walking scorer which I have performed ever since.The scorer walks beside the players (two or three) entering their every shot on a palm held computer device. We enter the clothing description for each player so that other volunteers measuring driving lengths and other statistics can identify each golfer at a distance. We also enter for each shot whether the player is in the fairway, the rough, in a bunker, or on the green, and whether the player's stance is level, uphill, or downhill. The scores we enter are directly transmitted to the scoreboards around the course (no goof-ups allowed). All of this information is to help the player to review his round, or to enable the player and official in the scoring tent to review the history of each hole in the very rare event of a disputed score. Here are some outstanding memories from my twenty years.

This event usually includes several young golfers starting their careers. One example was J.B. Holmes who was one of my earlier players. This was J.B.'s first PGA event. He barely missed the cut, but went on to a successful golfing career (despite losing a year or two afterward following brain surgery). He went on to play on two Ryder Cup, and one President's Cup teams. Next, I should explain my usual routine for volunteering. I work at the tournament on Wednesdays and Thursdays, take off Fridays to play golf with my regular foursome, and return to the championship on Saturdays and Sundays. In 2010 on my day off I shot a hole-in-one at Colonial Country Club. I proudly told everyone who would listen, including the chair of the walking scorers. Next morning I introduced myself to the players on the first tee. "You shot a hole-in-one yesterday," said Jonathan Byrd. "How do you know?" I asked the pro. It turned out that Byrd had dinner the night before with Tom Rice, the scorers chair. He had set me up with Jonathan the next day. At the end of the round Byrd gave me a ball signed “ACE! Jonathan Byrd”. I have this ball in the center of my golf ball display.

 

Another memory is from last year when Ben Crane signed a ball at the end of the round with his name and Matthew 6 v 33-34. That scripture says: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God...." What a wonderful testimony from a player who has won in excess of $20 million on the tour. Then this year in the final round I had Peter Malnati as one of my three players. Peter was the 2015 champion of the Sanderson Farms event. On the 10th hole he was a few yards off the green and was preparing to chip. Two seven-year-old boys were close by and distracted him. He asked them to move before he successfully chipped close to the hole. Then he returned to the kids and gave each a golf ball. We proceeded to the seventeenth hole where he approached me in the fairway, placed an arm around my shoulder, and said that he hadn't had a very good round but had enjoyed working with me. I told him that I had seen his kindness to the two young boys, and he would always be a champion in my eyes.

Mr. Joe Sanderson has introduced a non-denominational worship service prior to the final round on Sundays. It was an inspirational service which included a brief talk by the father of a 14-year-old boy who had been successfully treated at Batson Childrens Hospital when he had a rare form of leukemia at 15 months old. Finally Mr. Sanderson gave the benediction.

The tournament raised more than $1 million for the Batson Hospital, and more for other local charities. It was a blessing and privilege that my old legs could walk four rounds as I volunteered for these wonderful causes.

Peter Gilderson, Madison, 601-853-4632

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First Presbyterian Day School’s Crusader Club parent organization is made up of multiple committees of parent volunteers.