GREENSBORO, N.C. – Professional golf tournaments would struggle without the waves of volunteers who descend on courses every week to perform a variety of duties, from driving to holding “Shhhhh” sticks to filling marshal positions.

The volunteer total at last week’s Wyndham Championship is about 1,300, so you’re likely to bump into one or more in almost any direction you wander.

Peter Grant is one, and an unusual one. Grant, who is retired, has signed up to volunteer at 10 tournaments, including the Wyndham, in six states this year. Although many volunteers tend to be locals, Grant lives in Valhalla, N.Y., and drives to tournament sites. 

“I love golf – been playing for 50 years,” said Grant, 66. “Volunteering is a way to get closer to it. You see the game and the players closer. It’s a fun way to enjoy the game and to meet new people.”

Grant said he usually works as a standard-bearer, one of the volunteers who follow a player group and carry the sign that shows their scores. This is about as close as a non-player can get to players during an event.

“You’re usually about 20 yards away,” Grant said. “It’s a phenomenal location to watch. Being that close gives you a bigger appreciation for the shots they make.”

Grant has been a standard-bearer for Justin Thomas, Adam Scott and Shane Lowry, among others. “It’s fun to see what they go through with their caddies, talking about every shot and what comes next,” Grant said. “Once they pick a club, they’re 100 percent behind it. It’s so much a mental game at that point.”

Grant plans to volunteer at PGA, LPGA and USGA tournaments in North Carolina, New Jersey, Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois and Tennessee this year. He pays his own way, from fuel to food to hotels, driving to each location. Clearly, it’s a job he enjoys.

“The volunteer chairmen usually want people who play golf, know golf and have some experience,” Grant said. “Once you get on board, you usually have a better chance at working other tournaments. It kind of builds on itself.”

Volunteers typically don’t pick their positions. Grant has directed traffic in parking lots, helped with spotting balls and controlling crowds as a marshal and filled jobs behind the scenes.

Grant said he plays to a 16 handicap and usually has a teetime two or three days a week. He has no volunteers following him, but that’s OK.

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.