Tacoma’s Mary Jo Uhlman discovered a way to satisfy civic duty with creative vacation planning.
When the United States Golf Association announced early in 2008 that Chambers Bay Golf Links, a recently opened public golf course in University Place, would be the site of the 2015 U.S. Open, Uhlman wanted to get involved immediately.
The best way, she thought, would be to sign up as a volunteer.
So she talked it over with her husband, Chuck. And they decided to take a trial run and sign up for the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in New York as a family of four — both parents and twin children.
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“The twins were graduating from college, and we thought about a trip to celebrate their graduation,” Uhlman said. “I had an idea of all of us volunteering at Bethpage Black.
“Our daughter, who isn’t really into golf, loves New York — so that was a win for her. And my son is into golf. So I signed the four of us up. We got in, and we all got good (volunteer) positions.
“It was a great experience to have the four of us together doing that.”
At 12:01 a.m. Pacific time Monday, the online volunteer application process officially opened for the 2015 U.S. Open at 2015volunteers.usga.org/2015vols/.
The USGA will accept approximately 6,000 applicants — with 4,500 volunteers employed daily to help put on the tournament, which takes place June 14-21.
Volunteer services are needed in 17 general areas, ranging from admissions and information services, corporate hospitality, merchandise, caddie and player services — and, of course, positions near the actual golf, including hole marshalling, working grandstands and practice area, and helping with leaderboards.
Applicants cannot choose the areas in which they want to work, but are asked to list their four areas of preference. Experienced volunteers re-applying also have priority in select areas, such as in scoring and marshalling.
Once applications are processed, confirmation letters should be received within six weeks.
Even though the application process officially closes June 9 — the start of this year’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina — 2015 U.S. Open championship director Danny Sink warns not to expect it to be open that long.
As big as the U.S. Open is, applying to become a U.S Open volunteer won’t fill up in a matter of hours — like, say, trying to buy tickets for a Rolling Stones or U2 concert.
“But assignments are first-come, first-serve,” Sink said.
First-time applicants might be initially thrown off by one volunteering component: the $165 fee.
That $165 pays for two U.S. Open volunteer polo shirts, a windbreaker, headwear, water canister, meal vouchers and credentials to watch practice days and the four rounds of golf. That payment isn’t required until July, Sink said.
Volunteers will be asked to work a minimum of four shifts during the week. Each shift is five to six hours.
Annually, all 50 states and 12 to 15 countries are represented in the U.S. Open volunteer program. Approximately 300 to 400 people re-apply and work the tournament every year, said Eric Steimer, the assistant manager for the 2015 U.S. Open.
Don’t be deterred if you are a late-comer and are put on a waiting list. At last year’s U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, 1,000 reserves were called back to work the tournament, Steimer said.
When Uhlman decided to apply for her first U.S. Open, all she wanted to do was get her foot in the door to work her hometown event — the 2015 U.S. Open.
“The most rewarding thing is just to be a part of the event in some way,” Uhlman said. “It is one thing to be there as a spectator. But to feel like you are contributing to such an exciting event even if I was one of 5,000 or so, I felt like I was doing my part.”