By July 10, 2017 Read More →

Volunteers are key part of Greenbrier Classic workforce

By TINA ALVEY

The Register-Herald

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Resort employees numbering well over 1,000 and a cadre of more than 800 volunteers contributed to the smooth operation of the weeklong Greenbrier Classic PGA Tour event that concluded here Sunday.

None were more potentially crucial than the experienced emergency medical personnel who manned a pair of first aid tents, two revolving carts and a hospital trailer (with a physician from West Virginia University) stationed at various points around the Old White course, at the ready to tend to injured or ill tournament attendees.

While first responders have in past years dealt with life-threatening cardiac incidents, this year was relatively non-eventful, according to the two White Sulphur Springs Rescue Squad EMTs on duty at one of those first aid stations on Sunday.
PHOTO GALLERY: Greenbrier Classic Final Round

“We’ve given out a lot of Band-Aids for blisters and treated a couple of spectators hit by golf balls, but nothing more serious,” said Jeff Powell, noting that most of the health problems typically seen at the tournament are weather-related.

“Dehydration is the biggest issue,” he said. “It’s hotter out here than people realize, and they’re walking more than they’re used to. People don’t often think of kids getting dehydrated, because they’re young and healthy, but they’re also shorter and when they’re walking in a crowd of adults, they don’t even catch a breeze. No one notices kids are getting dehydrated until they start to fall over.”

EMT Derek Thomas said he was thankful the weekend weather was milder than tournaments in the past had been. He recalled working at the Classic’s Aerosmith concert on July 6, 2013, in what was part of the band’s aptly named “Global Warming Tour.”

“It was about 110 degrees, and Aerosmith didn’t start playing as early as scheduled, so everyone was standing around for hours with no shade,” Thomas said. “People were dropping like flies.”

Another health risk is choosing trendiness over practicality, Powell pointed out.

“Some of them are trying to make a fashion statement instead of dressing for the activity, and that can cause problems,” he said of the golf fans.

Powell said he had bandaged blisters for men trudging around stylishly sans socks in leather shoes and for women trying to navigate the course in high heels. One woman told him she was wearing a new pair of heels for the first time, he said. But after walking only a couple hundred yards, she had a blister the size of a quarter on her foot and complained she simply couldn’t take another step.

“Our squad has been here (for the Classic) every year but one,” Powell said. “Most days, it’s pretty easy.”

Both of the EMTs were impressed with the restoration of the Old White golf course, having seen first-hand the devastation wrought there by last June’s deadly flood. They said all of the grass and topsoil were scoured away by the floodwaters, leaving only debris and bedrock behind.

“It’s pretty awesome, the amount of work that was done here in just 12 months,” Powell said. “It’s great to see it’s come back this way.”

Thomas was also in awe of the golf course now, saying he’ll never forget the enormous force of nature that stripped those acres bare.

“I was trapped on a bridge over there,” he said, waving a hand in the direction of the clubhouse. “I heard another bridge break loose and watched it wash toward us, and I saw it crash into our bridge. When it hit our bridge, I could see how fast that river flowed and how much (debris) it was carrying. It was a little scary.”

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Across the way from the first aid station is an information booth that on Sunday was staffed by a group of women, including two from the Old Dominion.

Enjoying her first year as a volunteer at the Classic, Marge Crowder of Fincastle, Va., said she and her co-worker in the information booth, Patricia Cash of Madison Heights, Va., had been delighted to discover they are both retirees from the General Electric Corporation, although they hadn’t previously met.

Unlike Crowder, Cash came into this summer as an experienced three-year Classic volunteer.

“I love golf and had attended the Classic and visited The Greenbrier before,” Cash explained her involvement. “I also do sponsor services. The volunteer activities are all different, and they’re all enjoyable.”

Noting that her friends had encouraged her to volunteer this year, Crowder said, “People are so friendly here. And I even got to see ‘my man’ — Phil Mickelson.”

“He’s a perfect southern gentleman,” Cash added.

Newly named The Greenbrier’s “Tour ambassador,” Mickelson is one of the PGA Tour’s most popular figures.

While on duty at the information booth, Cash and Crowder handed out lanyards and brochures and answered visitors’ questions about finding various facilities around the golf course, where to eat and what amenities were available.

Both women were quite aware of the remarkable recovery from the events of last year that have been made at The Greenbrier and are still under way in White Sulphur Springs. Cash noted that organizations with which she is involved in her hometown near Lynchburg joined in the massive flood relief effort.

“It’s an honor to be here,” she said.

•••

At the course-side “Official Tournament Merchandise” shop, a visitor could find everything from the practical — sunscreen, rain ponchos, water bottles and sun visors emblazoned with the Greenbrier Classic logo — to such whimsical items as poker chip golf ball markers, bottle “koozies” and even bright yellow pin flags, silk screened with the logo and the number “18.”

Betsy Long, online store manager at The Greenbrier, said the shop next to the Old White course had been a magnet for those attending the tournament.

“Yesterday (Saturday) was like a herd of buffaloes,” she said. “Many people are excited to get a souvenir or two, and our buyer, Elaine Hollandsworth, knows the type of merchandise our customers want to buy.”

With the Classic winding down on Sunday, Long said the tournament merchandise will now be transferred to the Greenbrier Classic Shop and into a warehouse for distribution through the online store she manages, which can be accessed at store.greenbrier.com.

“This week is a lot of work, but our volunteers are some of the best people to work with,” Long said. “They’re all very helpful and friendly with our guests.”

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