SPORTS

Manulife Financial LPGA Classic fuelled by volunteers

06/22/2012 08:27 EDT | Updated 08/22/2012 05:12 EDT
When was the last time you took a day off to work for free?

How about a week?

Welcome to the world of 46-year-old Brantford native Pat Reardon. He’s spending his weeklong vacation volunteering at Waterloo’s Grey Silo golf course.

His volunteer job? Safeguarding the tees at the inaugural Manulife Financial LPGA Classic as a marshal.

As he pushes the wire rim above his nose to readjust his glasses I can see the sweat glistening on his narrowing forehead. Everything about this guy says he means business — from his pristine white Reebok sneakers to his freshly pressed khaki shorts that end appropriately at the knee.

The full-time fork lift operator hoists his cardboard cutout sign acutely labelled with sharp capital letters with ease and purpose. It reads: S-I-L-E-N-T.

Just a second, maybe two go by, and he makes eye contact with a spectator, he asserts himself in one calm breath, “Stand please!”

Gary MacGregor is Reardon’s partner on this tee. He’s a retired principal but he clearly hasn’t missed a beat when it comes to commanding the attention of a disobedient crowd. You can’t see the sparkle of his baby blue eyes through his tinted sunglasses but the tone suggests his pupils are focused in on the lady in front of him who is shuffling her Capri-covered legs when she’s supposed to be standing still.

She is no match for this committed volunteer.

MacGregor lifts the green ball cap that’s keeping the sun out of his eyes and follows it with a tug on the white collar of his tournament issued golf shirt, a combination that cost him $65.

A small price to pay according to this cancer survivor, who signed up online for a chance to stick to the motto he lives by: “It’s not about what you get in this life, it’s about what you give back.”

For Reardon, the highlight of his vacation has been shaking hands and making friends with new people and getting up close and personal with top talent in the female game.

When he’s not operating his fork lift in Burlington, Reardon likes to hit the links. This is his first time volunteering at a professional golf tournament. It’s only two days in and he’s hooked.

“I’m hoping for another,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got my wife on board for the next one.”

With 144 women chasing down the $1.3 million dollar purse here at Grey Silo there’s no shortage of flashy golf apparel, the latest trends, colours and neon patterns that are everywhere.

No stranger to volunteering

When you visit the media centre, you’ll find a professional, tidy, and pleasant Tracy Van Kalsbeek greeting reporters, photographers and bloggers at the door. Her shiny red hair is pulled back in a no-nonsense pony tail, and while she’ll smile at you, if you forget to sign in, she won’t let you do more than put your bags down before she’s on your case.

Van Kalsbeek is another of the 1,300 volunteers here. Unlike Pat and Gary she’s safe from the heat and the UV rays that come with an air conditioned building.

She is no stranger to volunteering. The mother of 14-year-old twin girls considers herself to be an active member in her community, but the public relations expert has never been a part of an event of this size — even the fashion show she co-ordinated was “a drop in the bucket,” compared to the Manulife Financial Classic.

Despite having a full-time PR gig to keep her busy and two teenagers at home — Van Kalsbeek says she couldn’t resist, “the chance to be a part of a world class event,” especially a golf tournament, “that’s been embraced by my entire community.” Heather Curran is responsible for the mass of volunteers here this week and says she’s been “wowed” by their willingness to help out.

One couple she placed on the course travelled all the way from Seattle in their motor home to take part.

It’s that kind of support that’s encouraged Curran to start planning for next year’s event on Monday.

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