1700 Volunteers are ready, Defending champion is not

Dave White of St. Joseph reviews the materials in his credential box with Janet Shenker. White is one of 1700 volunteers working the 2018 Kitchen Aid Senior PGA Tournament at Harbor Shores.
2017 Senior PGA Champion, Bernhard Langer, spends a few minutes before his press conference on Media Day talking golf.

1700 Volunteers are ready

Defending champion is not

By Tom O’Neill

            Close to 1700 Senior PGA Volunteers descended upon St. Joseph High School April 20 to pick up uniforms and credentials for this year’s tournament. Three days later Bernhard Langer, the 2017 Champion, informed the media he will not be defending his title at a morning press conference to promote the tournament.

            Donae Donatello, Manager of Volunteer Operations for this year’s event, supervised the distribution which went off like clockwork. Not only were all the positions filled, but the tournament has a waiting list. “Volunteers will log over 30,000 hours and come from 31 states,” noted Donatello. There is one volunteer traveling 2200 miles from California to attend the event. Donatello said what is even more impressive is 500 volunteers have worked all four tournaments held at Harbor Shores. It also marks the first year that Kitchen Aid is the title sponsor of the tournament.

            Dave White of St. Joseph is serving as a captain over transportation. He says it is a great opportunity to meet the golfers along with the PGA officials. “They are all real down to earth guys,” White added.

            Sharon Davarn of St. Joseph is a first-timer and will be working the admissions trailer and scan gate. Her husband, Pat, a four-year tournament veteran convinced her to join him this year.

            Glenn Averill, also from St. Joseph and Whirlpool employee, said this will be his fourth year. “It’s fun and good for the community.” Averill will be working the scoreboard for the first time. Prior to that he was a hole marshal. “I enjoyed talking to the players. I remember several who played here in the Western Am and are now back as part of the Champions Tour.”

            Each of the volunteers paid a nominal fee to participate. For that, they received a jacket, hat, daily admission tickets and vouchers to use on the course. They also received a round of golf at Harbor Shores and coupon sheet from area businesses offering discounts for the volunteers.

            Media Day has traditionally been the day to introduce the past year’s champion to the community. This year was no exception, except Langer announced he will not be participating.

            “The reason is our youngest son, he’s 18 now. He’s graduating from high school on that very same weekend. Family always comes first in my life, so I’ve got to be there  to support him, to celebrate his moving on to college,” explained Langer. “I’m going to miss competing for this, but hopefully we’ll see you in a year from now.”

            Langer is the current record-holder with 10 Major PGA Champions Tour titles and has topped the money list each year since 2011. Since joining the senior circuit, Langer has 36 wins.

            PGA of America’s Julius Mason questioned him about small talk in the locker room. “Some of your competitors are saying how in the world is this 60-year old German beating us out here?” Langer’s response was “I don’t hear much of that. Sometimes they say why you don’t take a week off. I joke back and say, if you pay me a disappearance fee, I might, but I haven’t received any yet.”

            Langer praised the Harbor Shores course. “I definitely like this course. My first round I played here years ago, a practice round, I immediately told my caddie, this is a special place. I thought it was tee to green one of the best courses I’ve ever played. I did feel that some of the greens were a little bit severe, but there’s a reason for that, and I can see why Jack (Nicklaus) did what he did now.”

            Despite Langer’s absence, this year’s field boasts 17 Major Champions, five Masters Champions, five U.S. Open and five PGA Champions. There are seven Senior PGA Champions and four Ryder Cup Captains along with six Hall of Fame Members.

            The Kitchen Aid Senior PGA will run May 24-May 27. Practice rounds are Tuesday and Wednesday, the best days for autograph seekers.