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Residents spend Masters Week working golf course

McDuffie County didn't close down last week for the Masters. But with so many working along the fairways and greens of the Augusta National, it might as well have.

Several McDuffie County residents spent their week posting scores and holding back crowds at what is arguably the most famous golf tournament on the planet. But it wasn't all fun and games.

The weather delays and the heat made being outside difficult. Plus, most had to take time off from work to volunteer at the tournament. So why do they do it? While they had several reasons, they all shared one common response.

"Of course, you get a chance to play the course," said Michael Bonner who has worked the main scoreboard at the National for the past 14 years.

Those volunteering at the tournament are allowed to play the course at a later date, which keeps them coming back.

"The reward for me is we get to go down and play the course," said Jerry Stanphill who, along with fellow Thomson City Policeman Scott Whittle, oversaw the on-course information boards.

"That opportunity is not opened up to too many people," Mr. Whittle said.

From their time spent at past Masters, the McDuffie volunteers have also collected many fond memories not afforded to everyone.

Mr. Bonner said his favorite memory is watching Tiger Woods destroy the field on the way to his first green jacket in 1997. But it is the chance to meet interesting people from all over the world and have them anticipate his next move on the scoreboard that is most exciting.

"When they get down around 16, 17 and 18, everybody can't get down there, so they'll just crowd around the big scoreboard waiting for me to put up the score," Mr. Bonner said.

Mr. Whittle enjoyed watching the children of the golfers who got to participate in the Par 3. He also noticed the respect that the golfers have for Byron Nelson, who hits the honorary first drive.

"Everybody thinks that we're down there doing security just because we're in law enforcement," Mr. Whittle said of the break from his everyday job. "But there's no gun, no badge, no authority whatsoever."

Ralph Starling has been a gallery guard for nine years. He spent the week on the second hole, rotating from station to station. He was joined by long-time friend Bill Beckum, but both also enjoyed the camaraderie of their fellow guards.

Mr. Starling said the Masters has always been special to him since he was eleven, the year he watched Arnold Palmer win. He also got used to visiting with another long-time friend at the tournament, Barry Hanson, who passed away in 2004.

"I really missed him this week," Mr. Starling said.

Despite the sadness, Mr. Starling enjoyed the opportunity to take pleasure in the beauty of the golf course.

"If you go down there and you don't believe there's a God, there's something wrong with you," he said.

Web posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01

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