By Cam Huffman
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Jim Strawn arrived at The Old White TPC course at The Greenbrier Thursday, prepared to walk the course with Andres Romero, Steve Flesch and John Daly. Minutes later, he had a front row seat for the round that everybody wanted to see.
The director of marketing at Highland Hospital in Charleston, Strawn has volunteered as a standard bearer for all three years of West Virginia’s only PGA TOUR event, and the self-proclaimed Tiger Woods fan arrived early for Thursday’s opening round, hoping he could find a way to “weasel” his way into walking with one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.
When the standard bearer for the 8:10 a.m. tee time — which included Woods, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker — arrived a little late, Strawn, who was scheduled for the 8:20 tee time, got the call.
“I was the first in line,” said Strawn, who admitted he made no secret of the fact that it was something he was hoping to experience.
“I was very blessed to get this assignment with Tiger, the U.S. Open champ (Simpson) and a really good guy, Steve Stricker. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime assignment. I’m in awe of every shot that they make. They are true professionals.”
Strawn said he enjoyed watching both the golfers and the swarms of excited fans following the athletes’ every move.
“Nobody yelled my name,” he joked. “I didn’t understand that.”
Strawn has now walked 10 rounds as a Greenbrier Classic standard bearer — estimating he walked 8 to 9 miles each time, while holding a sign for everybody to see — and he pointed to Chris Kirk, Cameron Tringale and Simpson as some of the friendliest golfers he’s met. He said he enjoys the experience, no matter who’s in his group, but that hasn’t stopped him from thinking about other dream assignments.
“I’ve never walked with Phil (Mickelson), and Tom Watson would be an iconic guy to walk with,” he said. “They’re on my bucket list now.
“It’s one of the most exciting events in West Virginia,” he continued, explaining the draw of giving up his time to help out. “Why not be a part of it? Why not volunteer? I love this state very much, and I try to be a great ambassador for the state. This is a great way to showcase who we are and what we have — the majestic mountains, the great people and the kindness that people pour out.”
Jeannie Felton isn’t a West Virginia native, but she’s a regular at The Greenbrier Classic. The Basye, Va., native came to The Greenbrier several years ago for her anniversary, and she and her husband came to the PGA TOUR event last year as fans.
This time around, she wanted to be inside the ropes.
“We just thought it would be a fun thing to do,” said Felton, who said she plays a lot of golf and loves the game. “It’s been very interesting. (Wednesday) was a little hot, but (Thursday) I was able to sit in the shade and watch golf.”
Felton has been stationed at hole No. 2 for the week, and she’s moved around, working the green, the crosswalk and, on Thursday, the tee box. Felton’s role in the first competitive round was keeping the crowd quiet while the players were hitting their tee shots and providing any assistance the athletes needed.
“Several of them have said hello, but I avoid trying to start conversation,” said Felton of her interaction with the players, including Jim Furyk, whom she was excited to see. “I don’t want to mess up somebody’s shot.”
Felton is spending the week at the Village Inn in White Sulphur Springs, and, despite the storms that knocked out power to a lot of Greenbrier County earlier in the week, she said the hotel had everything she wanted.
“The air conditioner is working,” she laughed. “That’s all that matters.”
Greg Teator brought his hotel with him. The Akron, Ohio, native, who was living in Fairmont last year when he volunteered at The Greenbrier Classic for the first time, is staying in his RV at the State Fairgrounds in Lewisburg. He takes the provided shuttle to The Greenbrier each day, and he’s serving as a floater, moving around wherever volunteers are needed.
“You see a lot of great shots,” he said of the advantages of his assignment. “On No. 17, Boo (Weekley) dropped it in from 150 yards out for an eagle. Seeing those things are great.”
Teator recently started a new job in Ohio, but he wasn’t going to miss a return trip to West Virginia for the tournament.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment with a move and telling a new job that I was going to leave for a week, but it has definitely been enjoyable,” he explained. “Everybody’s looking forward to seeing Tiger and seeing how he plays. This is a tough course. Some of them are struggling out there.”
Strawn, Felton and Teater are just three of the more than 2,000 volunteers who have given up their time to help out with The Greenbrier Classic this week.
There are other benefits for volunteers, aside from getting to spend a few days or the entire week at the tournament. For $85, volunteers receive a Polo golf shirt and golf jacket, a choice of a cap or visor, a $12 meal voucher for each shift worked, a weekly badge allowing grounds access and a vehicle parking credential. They also have the opportunity to purchase another weekly badge, for a guest, for half price. The total package given to volunteers is estimated to be a $450 value.
Volunteers have to be at least 16 years of age and are required to work two full days, or four half-day shifts. They perform a variety of duties, including admissions, information, laser operators, marshals, merchandise, player transportation, scoring, registration and more.
For more information or to volunteer for the 2013 Greenbrier Classic, visit www.greenbrierclassic.com/volunteers.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org