Sanford International volunteers are backbone of tournament

Flexibility and can-do attitude of volunteers make PGA Champions Tour stop run

Sanford worker in stocking cap, coat and Sanford International face mask stands outside a pavilion at the golf course.

There are no fans in the stands until Friday.

The course is largely vacant.

But, if you head over to the Sanford International volunteer headquarters, you’d have no idea the tournament wasn’t already underway.

“We’re everywhere. That’s what it is constantly. My head is all over the the place,” said Sanford International volunteer coordinator Remi Guthman.

‘It’s all hands on deck’

Guthman says duties for volunteers during the week are basically the same as the weekend. But, as the crowds surge on the weekend, so does the need for more volunteers.

“We have college volunteers who go out and marshal. We have junior volunteers, they’re out on the driving range. Our security ambassadors are located all around the course, helping people out, along with our marshals.

“Also, the people who are on volunteer headquarters, who make sure our volunteers stay fed, hydrated, and warm throughout the day,” said Guthman through chattering teeth, courtesy of 40-degree weather, rain and wind.

Related: You want colorful golfers? Come to the Sanford International

Despite the overall volunteer count being down from last year, Guthman says their expectations were exceeded. Especially, given the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last year we had over 900 volunteers. So, coming in this year, knowing everything that we would be dealing with, we were expecting around 300 to 400, just to be able to put the tournament on and have enough.

“We have over 650 volunteers this year, which is absolutely amazing for what everybody’s been through this year,” she said.

COVID-19 changes

Just when everyone started feeling comfortable, COVID-19 changed everything about the tournament.

“Coming from the first two years, we were getting in the motion of things and we were feeling good. We thought this was going to be an easy year, and it has not been. But, everyone has been so great with rolling with the punches and making things work,” said Guthman.

Read more: COVID-19 preparedness allows for fans at golf tournament

One of the those people is David Rowe, a three-year security ambassador for the tournament. He echoed Guthman, saying the pandemic has changed his committees assignments.

“We are doing more controlling on the front side of this, rather than being out on the 17th and 18th green. We’re doing more traffic control and directing,” he said.

He adds that the pandemic has made Guthman and other leaders reassign positions, due to fluctuating needs.

“How many people do we need there? If a person goes this way, what happens when they get down to a certain point? Even in the first days we’ve been here, we’re going through what-if situations, and we’re already finding that we have to adjust some things we’re doing,” said Rowe.

Being flexible

Guthman says the flexibility and positive attitude of each volunteer has proven how much they’re committed to hosting a safe tournament, as smooth as possible.

“That’s everyone’s goal. That’s what’s so great about being here all week, too, is that everyone’s so willing to try new things and make it work,” she added.

Tournament director Josh Brewster says leaders can do all the planning they want, but without the volunteers, the tournament couldn’t happen.

“Without volunteers, we’re not able to do what we do. They’re truly the backbone of our tournament.”

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Posted In Community, Golf, Innovations, Sanford International, Sioux Falls

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