A few months ago Momma signed up to work as a marshal at the Ryder Cup. It would feature the best European and American golfers in the world. Visions of Phil, Ricky, Jordan and Bubba danced in her head. Momma would go to any length to see the action up close and personal – even if it meant working as a marshal – something she knew she was not cut out for.
Thinking big, Momma signed up to work Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As excited as she was, though, Momma was equally nervous. What if she made a huge mistake and disgraced her country? Oh well, she would worry about that when the time came.
As the event drew near, Momma got so caught up in Cup spirit that she temporarily forgot her reservations. She was especially thrilled when she learned that she would be required to buy a new Ralph Lauren golf shirt and jacket. Perfect! (“I know I’m on a budget, Lina, but I can’t help it if I’m forced to buy a new outfit, can I?”)
When Momma finally buckled down and read the Ryder Cup materials, she realized that she was right to be concerned – the marshal job had a lot of responsibilities. In fact, there were two training sessions – one at Chaska High School and one onsite at Hazeltine.
The training at CHS was first. Momma picked up her smart new uniform and headed proudly to the auditorium for the presentation. The speakers told the participants that the marshals had an important job to do and gave them an overview of their duties. Although she struggled mightily to concentrate, Momma’s mind kept wandering (would she look okay in the new Polo outfit?) and about the only thing that registered was the volunteer’s motto – “Greet, Assist & Thank.” “That’s the main thing, anyway, Lina,” she rationalized to me later that night (with just a hint of worry in her voice).
A few weeks later Momma headed out to the onsite training. Even though she had been out to Hazeltine before, she was worried she might get lost. She was to look for parking lot A-3, she thought. Or was it C-3? Or C-1? When she finally found her way (by following all the cars), she luckily saw her Hole Captain, Paul, and latched on to him for dear life as he led the way to hole #3. Now she would just have to follow him out again, or she might have to spend the night in one of the hospitality tents.
This time Momma listened. There were ropes to learn (literally) – crosswalk ropes and ropes from one green to the next tee box. If a player hit it in the “ruff,” the marshal might have to remove a stake or two or three to lower the rope – if requested by the player – and replace it with a hammer after the player had hit. Seriously? A hammer, Momma thought? Did they think she was a carpenter? The marshals were also warned not to hammer when someone was taking a shot – not even if it was a European.
And then there were the grandstand duties. The marshals were expected to rope off the stairs (those darn ropes again) and to turn spectators away if the grandstand was full. If they left for beer or the restroom, the marshal was to give them a little ticket with the hole number and time on it. The spectators had 30 minutes to return or the marshal was to deny them re-entrance. God, what had Momma gotten herself into? Managing people was not her thing. She decided to avoid the grandstand at all costs.
The marshals were also to give people directions – to restrooms, to different holes, to concession stands, to hospitality tents, to the first aid station – the list went on and on. How could they be expected to know so much? By now Momma was in a mild state of panic.
Despite her anxiety, Momma’s first day on the job went pretty well. She chose the easiest job she could find – one that was practically foolproof – working the ropes to let spectators cross the fairway after players hit their drives. Pretty soon Momma got the hang of it; in fact, she got a little cocky. She began confidently answering questions and giving directions, even though the only thing she knew for sure was where the restrooms were (having been there 3 times already that morning). She even started greeting people with her own motto, “Welcome to Minnesota,” which was often met with strange looks since most people there were from Minnesota.
The next day – as expected frankly – things got a little dicey. While idly standing by the green guarding the flagstick after the players had gone through (a position likely created just to keep her occupied), Momma glanced over at the (dreaded) grandstand and saw that it was almost full already! The afternoon grandstand team had not yet arrived so she and her partner, Deb, sprang into action and took up their positions on each set of stairs. Then Momma pulled the rope across the entrance and turned over the sign to read, “FULL.” “Sorry” she informed the crowd, “We’re full.”
The only problem was that several people had left to buy food and drinks and now wanted re-entry to rejoin their friends. And who could blame them? At the same time people (who were by now subject to the ticketing/timing process) were streaming out of the grandstand for one last drink/restroom run before the afternoon action. Not only was Momma writing tickets at warp speed, she also had to time people and (maybe- depending on their story) re-admit some that had no tickets at all!! Soon people were coming and going at such a dizzying pace that Momma’s head was spinning.
Luckily the grandstand team arrived in the nick of time and put things in order. Momma, near collapse, made her own run for the nearest wine tent.
On her final day of duty, Momma worked the tee box where she was expected to operate the ropes (the ropes again!) so players could pass through and also keep the crowd quiet for their shots. Momma was bound and determined to do well, but she was wracked with self doubt.
Would she be able to undo (and tie up) the ropes at the right moment? What if she kept the players waiting? Tripped Rory? Even accidentally? Should she crouch down when players were shooting so others could see? Or should she raise her arms over her head in the universal “quiet” signal like they do on TV? Would she be on TV? Could she say anything to players, being an official marshal and all? She wasn’t just a regular fan, after all. She totally forgot what she was though when she saw Bubba and cried out, “I love you, Bubba!!” I’m sure Bubba’s world is now complete.
By the time Momma came home that night, she was like a whipped pup, tired but happy. The Americans had pulled off the victory and she had successfully masqueraded as a marshal. Here are some of her favorite moments ~
And here we are celebrating ~
Lina, Deputy Marshal