Volunteers enforce course rules at Open | VailDaily.com

Volunteers enforce course rules at Open

Ryan Slabaugh

“That’s a good one,” he says.

As a volunteer rules official on the 423-yard par 4, he monitors all the golfers during the 2002 Colorado Open this week on his specific hole, all the while checking for violations and finding the errant shots. Payne, along with volunteer Doris Dewton, of Edwards, has one of the toughest assignments all week for the yellow-shirted crew. Running along their assigned spot is a 30-yard wide ditch filled with tall weeds and hard dirt. It’s a hazard, and as a ball flies too far and into the ditch, it’s his turn to act.

Payne and Dewton find the ball, inform the golfer of his possibilities and move out of the way. It’s rule 26 in the USGA’s Rules of Golf book, which sits at attention in the back of Payne’s cart, along with the decisions books –an explanation about the rules and how they came about.

You can never be too prepared. If a golfer asked you if he could define the hazard or parts of the hazard as a water hazard even though it meets the definition of a “Lateral Water Hazard,” would you know how to answer?

See Payne came prepared. He’s spent time at rules clinics organized by the USGA and has taken the rules tests. Even Dewton, who doesn’t have that kind of experience, has the rule book in her back pocket. She plays golf at Sonnenalp as a member and knows full well what No. 12 means, kind of.

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“I’m left handed. It’s a different game that way,” Dewton said, kidding with Payne. While a volunteer needs binoculars, suntan lotion, sunglasses, a yellow shirt, hat or visor, comfortable shoes, drinks and food, the friendly banter is what keeps their jobs from being bores. While playing golf includes a different challenge every minute, watching it from the same spot for hours does not. In fact, it can get repetitive.

Payne, on the radio, said: “We’re stacked up on No. 12,” as golfers wait in the fairway, the tee box and on the green. “They hit the landing area, hit to the green. Hit to the landing area, hit to the green. One after another…”

At least he has the ditch – the curse of golfers, the test of rules officials. On the 18th hole, Keli Wilber, of Cheyenne, Wyo., sprawls out in the grass about 300 yards off the tee box, waiting for the occasional errant ball. She’s alone and the only female head volunteer.

“They treat me fairly,” she says of the all-older-male staff. “I’ve been doing this five years now. They know I know what I’m doing.”

Vail’s Terri Avina can relate. Her duties Friday included watching the professionals tee off toward the 17th green and then walk away. Still, it’s a job to do and Avina, a golfer herself, enjoys the golfer-watching.

“I saw one caddie, a lady who must have been his wife, who was just dying,” she said. “But you’re right. Par 3’s are easy.”

Scattered along the course are dozens of other volunteers. If you’re thinking about coming out today or Sunday to watch, say hello. They’re wearing yellow shirts and most often stand looking to the sky.

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