Each morning during this week's SAS Championship, Walt Sliva will grab his radio, hop into a golf cart and drive to one of the scoreboards at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary to turn it on using the battery power from a golf cart. After play ends each day, Sliva and his crew of volunteers will round up the power-providing golf carts to charge them for another day.
And volunteers won't stop energizing the tournament until long after play ends on Sunday night.
Sliva, a Cary resident and Prestonwood Country Club member, is among more than 675 volunteers who are working this week's Champions Tour event.
"It's an opportunity to be doing a job you enjoy," said Sliva, who is the division chair of course operations for the SAS Championship.
Sliva is excited to spend each day of the tournament overseeing various tasks - just as he has done every year since the Champions Tour first came to Cary 11 years ago.
He travels via golf cart throughout the course ensuring balls are ready for golfers at the driving range, enough beverages are in place at every hole, starters are properly prepared to announce each golfer at the first and 10th tees, and standard-bearers show up on time to carry their signs.
And a record number of volunteers will show up this week. Tournament Manager Ali Mangini said volunteer registration had to close early for the first time in the event's history. Last year, about 600 people volunteered.
"We know that without them, this event cannot happen," Mangini said.
The group will spend more than 10,000 hours on the course this week, with about 80 percent of the volunteers working at least three four- to six-hour shifts and many working all day, every day, she said.
"They are the face of the event. They are out on the course interacting with golfers and spectators," Mangini said.Core group
Most of the volunteers have done this before (about 100 are helping for the first time). There is a core group of experienced volunteers, who guide new participants.
Many of the repeat volunteers serve as chairs of more than 20 committees. Those leaders are able to coordinate responsibilities for hundreds of volunteers, view live information about availability and efficiently communicate during preparation for the tournament thanks to an online volunteer database, Mangini said.
"We're so blessed to have such a great management team," said Jeff Kleiber, who has been the tournament director since 2003. "Every year they come back. They're the energy that keeps everything flowing."
Stacey Schaeffer, vice chair of volunteers, has been a volunteer for this event for 11 years. She attributes the ability to easily solve issues that arise during the week to the volunteer leaders' experience.
"We've gotten to know each other, we respect each other and we support each other," she said.
Schaeffer spends much of her time checking in with the committees she oversees and solving problems from her perch on a golf cart. If fans are getting a bit too noisy on the 17th green, Schaeffer finds people to help keep it quiet. And if the volunteer food arrives unprepared, she gets in the tent to cut bread and make sandwiches.
Schaeffer sees making sandwiches or ensuring the coffee is brewing each morning to greet the volunteers as a way to show her appreciation for the volunteers and motivate a successful team that she calls a family.
"I feel like I'm a cheerleader," Schaeffer said. "I'm trying to thank as many volunteers as I can."Job perks
There are some perks, too. The event attracts several of the world's top Champions Tour golfers, including Fred Couples, Fuzzy Zoeller, Loren Roberts, Hal Sutton and David Frost. Many of the competitors are happy to chat with volunteers on the more informal pro-am days leading up to the competitive weekend play.
"You get to interact with the players and most of them are very personable," Sliva said. "You get to see a side of them that you don't get to see on TV."
When Schaeffer was on the pro-am committee in the tournament's early years, she got a last-minute opportunity to play with Larry Nelson and Dave Stockton Jr. She was warming up on the putting green, when Stockton walked over to ask with whom she would be playing. When she told him she was on his team, he told her he saw her swing on the driving range and would love to have her on his team.
While receiving a compliment from Stockton was memorable for Schaeffer, meeting professional golfers is not the reason she serves. For Schaeffer it is an extension of her love of everything to do with golf, combined with her commitment as a SAS employee and as a member of Prestonwood.
For Sliva, charity has always been his motivation. When the SAS Championship came to Cary, it was natural for the golfer to participate in something that combines his interest in golf and a worthy cause in his backyard. This year, the tournament benefits the YMCA WeBuildPeople Campaign through the Triangle Community Foundation.
"You know that somebody is going to really benefit from this beyond the enjoyment and the fans. [The charity] certainly from my standpoint is an important factor and an important reason why I come back."