Bobby Pope

Volunteering at the Masters

If you see a group of people in yellow hats, green shirts and khaki pants this week, you are probably in Augusta at the Masters.

Those more than 350 nattily attired individuals are from around the country working as volunteer gallery guards at America’s most prestigious golf tournament. It’s a seven-day gig, working most days from sunup to sundown, where they provide transportation to get to Augusta, and there is no pay. The cap and shirts are free, but they have to come up with their own khakis.

The job description is fairly simple. They control crowds, usher people across walkways and answer questions. Even though there is no pay, there are benefits. They get to see the golfers up close and personal between the ropes, and as a volunteer they have the opportunity to play the famed Augusta National Golf Club course on “appreciation day.” That comes in May prior to the course closing for the summer.

Macon radiologist Reg Osbon, a native of Augusta, has a long history as a volunteer at the Masters, dating back to his days in high school in the early 1970s when he was a press runner for three years. He would deliver press releases to the media, and in that role, he also had the chance on occasion to introduce the golfers to the press after they finished their rounds.

After he moved to Macon, he again volunteered as a gallery guard and was assigned to the 14th hole. He worked there from 1993 until 2007 when he moved to scoring, which is where he continues to work today. He says the best part of the job is the opportunity to meet so many nice people.

It is not that easy to become a volunteer at the Masters. According to an Augusta National official, the best way is to be recommended by someone who has been a volunteer and is stepping down, and you could potentially take their position. But even that doesn’t guarantee you of getting the spot.

There are some 700 total volunteers who work the Masters each year, and it is my understanding that once you land a spot, you are allowed to return annually as long as you are healthy and able to do the job.

There have been individuals who have volunteered at the Masters for more than a half century. Lee Neel, a real estate executive in Augusta, worked as a volunteer from 1963 until 2013. He was one of the people in a blue blazer with an armband as he held a supervisory position while working through the years at various times at the fifth, 15th and 17th holes.

He estimates that he took advantage of “appreciation day” and played the Augusta National between 30 and 40 times. His biggest thrill at the Masters came when he met tournament founders Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts.

Volunteers at the Masters come from all type of professions. In addition to doctors and real estate professionals, you will also find teachers, lawyers and businessmen, and I am familiar with one retired Army lieutenant general who works the event.

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