Running A Worldwide Championship -- Behind the Scenes at the U.S. Junior Amateur

As 156 juniors from around the world compete in the 55th U.S. Junior Amateur, so many others in less public positions are making the Championship appear effortless.

According Dave Donnelly, the USGA’s pointman for the Junior Amateur Championship, the Atlanta Athletic Club was chosen as the site for the 55th championship back in 1996. From that time, Dennis Patterson, General Chairman of the Junior Amateur and a staff of volunteers started organizing this year’s championship by visiting other facilities to learn how to host a championship of this size.

Once the course was selected and the staffing secured, you’re still left with one piercing question. “Who’s going caddie?” According to Gary Bayly, golf services supervisor, that question is not always answered easily. While some members of the host facility may want neighboring children to fill the positions, seasoned ‘loopers’ are needed.

“Good caddies are important,” said Bayly. In order to be a good caddie, “You have to be around the game a little bit. There are so many things to the game.”

Bayly’s philosophy is simple, “The player qualified to get here, and he deserves whatever he wants. Let’s get him happy. If you put a "bag toter" out there that’s never been on a golf course before, he not going to have any idea what he’s doing. These guys are so good now, you have to get them good caddies.”

The schedule of the championship has been shuffled in that it has had three delays due to severe thunderstorms, lightning and hail. This tested the evacuation plan and competencies of many staff persons, including student meteorologist, Kelly Wink.

Wink, who’s working on her Masters degree at the University of Arizona, has monitored the weather at the three previous USGA championships this summer: U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, U.S. Women’s Open, and the U.S. Amateur Public Links. But this Championship has produced the most weather activity of the four.

“In Michigan, we had some lightning delays, but nothing this severe,” Wink said.

Clyde Luther, who won the 2002 USGA Joe Dey Award for volunteer service, is a Rules official, and will be on the course scoring matches, hole by hole. That form of officiating is new to a lot of the participants.

“Many of them never had a walking official,” said Luther, who hails from Virginia. “That’s why when we meet the player on the 1st tee, we will explain our role and what the kids can expect.”

Even with that explanation, questions still arise.

“I had one player, that as quick as you can flash your eyes, had lifted a loose impediment out of the bunker. I couldn’t even stop him,” said Luther of the Rules violation he witnessed and had to administer the appropriate penalty. “They really get caught up in their games. It makes it kind of interesting, a lot of different things happen.”

After Luther and the other officials track the scores, the scoreboard attendants are responsible for recording them. In a Championship that spans six days, that is a lot or recording.

“We do the first two days of hole by hole, which is a lot of numbers. It’s something like 2000 numbers,” said Junior Amateur committeeman Bob Hodges of Dallas, Texas. Hodges has served seven years on ‘monster’ scoreboard duty.

This year players are allowed to cut out their own listing on the ‘monster’ board as a memento. “Those that are doing well like it, those that are not, don’t like it,” said Nancy Henning, an Atlanta AC member and volunteer. “One kid had a 70 and a 78 and he cut out his name and just the 70. He left the 78.”

Kevin Topps, Tournament Pairing Program (TPP) intern, also plays a crucial role in a tournament running smoothly. TPP is “a program that pretty much runs championships, from player entry to pairing to flighting,” said Topps.

“The reports run through TPP are used to generate the match play tree, newspaper reports and hole by hole statistics that the media uses. It all comes from TPP,” said Topps.

Once Topps, has entered the scores into the program, he can then download it to Website so that the public can stay updated on the scores. The site is updated every 5 minutes.

As the gallery and media grows each day, Donnelly is pleased with the efforts of his staff of committee members, volunteers and USGA staff. “Given the circumstances I think everything is going outstanding,” Donnelly said. “Players, officials, volunteers under General Chairman Dennis Patterson, have done a very good job helping us out. We haven’t had any problems whatsoever with course evacuation. Atlanta AC director of courses and grounds Ken Mangrum and his crew has done an outstanding job preparing the course for us each and everyday, especially with the difficulty of getting the course resumed and ready to go by 7:30, when we effectively have a 78 player shot gun. I think now that we are in match play, everything is going to be smooth sailing from here.”

By D’Wayn N Hines