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By R.J. Smiley

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Every golf fan understands that a successful Solheim Cup is made up of two elements: players and spectators. During that magical week in August, the city of Des Moines will host 24 of the best women golfers in the world. Each of these players, who will be elevated to rock-star status for a week, will be accompanied by an entourage of behind the scenes people. The 270,000 spectators, from all over the world, who will be entertained by these wonderful golfers might take notice of the caddies. If a spectator is a real golf fan he might even notice the various player’s swing coaches as they critically analyze each practice shot, seeking perfection. The spectators will never see or hear about the nutritionist, physical trainer or sports psychologist that accompany these female golf gladiators.

In addition to the players and spectators, there is a third element that is critical to the success of the Solheim Cup. Without 2,000 volunteers and 70 committee chairmen the Solheim Cup would be utter chaos! Like the unseen entourages that accompany the players, the volunteers, many working behind the scenes, keep the Solheim Cup running smoothly, like the gears of a grandfather clock.

So who directs these committee chairmen? Who keeps making minor changes to an organizational table with a proven history of success? The answer is Abbi Gibson.

This is the first Solheim Cup for Tournament Coordinator, Abbi Gibson. Among her diverse duties, Abbi oversees the volunteers. “The biggest part of my job is to give the committee chairmen and their volunteers everything they need to do their job. They are vital to the success of the Solheim Cup Matches. Being a volunteer also has its perks. Volunteers pay $160 for their uniforms and are required to work three 4 to 6 hour shifts, but they eat free while working and receive a full week-long pass to the golf events. Each of the committee chairmen understands exactly what is expected of them and each of their volunteers. Many of the volunteer jobs require common sense and good organization. Others require some specialized training. With the Solheim Cup, there is no dress rehearsal, we have to get it right the first time.”

Abbi explained that over 35% of the army of volunteers comes from outside the state of Iowa. “We have some volunteers that have worked previous Solheim Cup Matches. They understand what is involved. They feel the patriotic pride wearing the red, white and blue and love being a part of a major woman’s golf event. Other out of state volunteers say they have never been to Iowa, they are looking forward to spending a week in a smaller midwestern city in the heart of America. We have volunteers from Arizona who are coming to get out of the blistering heat!”

Looking at the organizational chart of the Solheim Cup is like viewing the organizational chart of a major corporation or an army. On the Solheim Cup chart there are five divisions of volunteers.

Crowd Control Division
A total of 610 volunteers have been assigned to Crowd Control Division. With record crowds of 270,000 expected for Solheim Cup week, this division has a number of responsibilities assigned to several committees. As many as 50,000 spectators will flow through the gates each day. The Access Control Committee volunteers are responsible for verification of tickets and credentials. They must be checked as quickly as possible to keep the flow of fans moving through the gates. Each individual will be required to empty his pockets and purses will be inspected, but the volunteers are trained to do it quickly. The presence of law enforcement officers will be very evident at all access points.

One of the most coveted volunteer jobs at the Solheim Cup is working as a golf course marshal. The majority of golf course marshals work inside the ropes making them very visible to the golf fans. This gives the marshals a chance to say hello to friends and family while working. Most of the marshals are members of golf clubs in Des Moines and outstate throughout Iowa. Some of the marshals are members of golf clubs located up to 100 miles from Des Moines Golf & Country Club. Each golf club is assigned a hole on the Solheim Cup course. Being a marshal during the Solheim Cup will create a lifetime of memories for the volunteers.

Spectator Services Division
With First Aid, Merchandise Tent, Kids Area and Lessons and Activation committees assigned under the Spectator Services Division, it is no wonder that 647 volunteers have been assigned. This multifaceted division is the largest of the five Solheim Cup Divisions. With the fickle August weather in Iowa, the First Aid volunteers must be prepared for anything, from hail stones to heat strokes, from lightning strikes to heart attacks. The volunteers are not doctors, but doctors are available and assisted by volunteers.

The merchandise tent is always a must visit for all the fans that attend these golf events that focus on national pride. For most cities and golf clubs these national events are a once in a lifetime opportunity. Merchandise bearing the Solheim Cup logo will be coveted for years. Volunteers who are assigned the merchandise tent will be some of the tent’s best customers.

Operations Division
With 8 committees and 396 volunteers the Operations Division requires a variety of specially trained volunteers. With crowds almost as large as the Super Bowl everyday, volunteers who are assigned to the Solheim Cup parking committee are overworked and under appreciated.

Those volunteers who end up on the transportation committee are assigned the task of filling the buses as quickly as possible so fans who have purchased a ticket will be on time to see their favorite players.

Operations also include the finance committee. Can you imagine how much money that the rabid golf fans will spend while they are inside the gates of the Solheim Cup? How many beers will they buy? Who handles the money? One volunteer joked, “At the Solheim Cup we just weigh the money.”

Hospitality And Events Division
The 180 volunteers who work in Hospitality and Events Division have a vital job. When Solheim Cup sponsors come to the golf course to participate in a pretournament golf event or while they view the action from the hospitality tent owned by the sponsor, these sponsors and their guests expect to be treated like royalty. The volunteers have a special job in a wonderful venue where they can rub shoulders with the elite. When these sponsors and their guests play golf the volunteers make their experience enjoyable.

Tournament Services Division
The Tournament Services Division has 8 committees under its direction. The 283 volunteers assigned to this Division will be busy, but will feel a sense of satisfaction at week’s end. These volunteers drive shuttle cars, work as starters and handle the leaderboard. They serve as walking scorers and sort range balls. Did you know that the Solheim Cup players have their own brand of range balls? This division even has a committee to assist caddies as they gather information to prepare their golfer for the matches.

Media Services Division
The final division might be the most important of all committees. There will be 270,000 golf fans witnessing the weekly activities live, but there will be millions watching on worldwide TV. The 53 volunteers who work in the Media Services Division are assigned to only two committees. Media Center and TV services.

The Media Center provides the media with all types of information and background on players. Every member of the media wants some special bit of information to make their story special. The Media committee does their best to provide what they need.

As you feel the sense of national pride while attending the Solheim Cup live or watching the variety of activities during the week, please remember that the volunteers who work behind the scenes are the people who make it happen.

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