Friday, July 6, 2018

Volunteering for the ‘Shhhhhh Patrol’

Last month I volunteered to work at the Travelers Championship golf tournament in Cromwell, CT. My grueling duties included standing right next to the best golfers in the world and watching them make amazing shots. I also had to hold up a skinny sign that read “Quiet please,” and say, “Shhhhhh,” to the fans. In return for this back-breaking labor, I received a new golf shirt, a nice hat, an insulated tumbler, two passes to attend the tournament all week, free parking, $17 per day meal money, and the opportunity to meet a bunch of really nice people who also volunteered.

So, yeah, it was the most arduous and demanding job of my life — as long as you don’t count all the other jobs I’ve ever had.

Over the years I’ve become more and more fascinated by the game of golf. During the summer months I play approximately two or three times per month — and I play quite poorly, I might add. But no matter how lousy I play, no matter how often a potentially decent round is ruined by a quadruple bogey on the last hole, I still enjoy the experience and look forward to playing again soon. (Hmm, this also could be a sign of a psychological disorder, but let’s not go there.)

At the Travelers, being able to stand literally ten feet away from the most talented golfers on the planet as they hit balls farther and straighter than I’ve ever even dreamed of, is a mind-boggling experience. Now, I realize there are many people who find golf extremely boring. For example, my wife joined me one day at the tournament and after a few hours she said, “Wow, golf is even slower than baseball.” (See last week’s column for my thoughts on the tedious pace nowadays of my favorite sport, the National Pastime.)

Being a volunteer at the tournament was fun, but it was a bit constricting, as I had to do a five-hour shift in the same location. The course is so vast and beautiful, I was getting antsy, wishing to wander around and see the sights.

Also, after thirty or more groups of golfers went through my area — each group requiring me to employ my “Quiet please, Shhhhhh” skills — I realized I had raised my arms in the air more often than an entire Pentecostal church. Good thing that skinny sign wasn’t heavy.

There was one somewhat awkward episode. One afternoon I was assigned to Shhhhhh Patrol in one to the corporate skyboxes overlooking the 17th green. This was great for me, as I was in the shade the whole time. By then, even with gallons of sunblock, my fair Irish hide was starting to get a bit too pink.

However, as we all know, one side effect of alcohol is that it disables a person’s volume control dial. As the afternoon wore on, one particular group of corporate pals were no longer grasping the concept of “Quiet please.”

I’m pretty sure volunteers are not supposed to conk people on the head with the “Quiet please” sign, but drastic situations call for drastic measures, I always say.

No, I’m just kidding! I didn’t conk anyone with the sign. I don’t want tournament officials to prohibit me from volunteering again next year just because of a goofy joke in the newspaper. But to be honest, after the 50th time of pleading, “Quiet please, I’m begging you, sir!” the thought did occur to me that a whack on the noggin might be appropriate.

Volunteering at the Travelers Championship was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. But I wish they had let me keep the “Quiet please” sign. I know a few people I’d like to wave it at.

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