|by Sean Melia, Contributor|
golf without any volunteers. The professional events and amateur events we know
and love would come to a grinding halt. But more locally, volunteers matter to
every golfers’ experience. Without starters at the first tee, clusters of groups
might wonder when it’s their time to tee off, ultimately clogging the golf
course. Water coolers would run dry. Slow groups would hold up the entire
Leo Scholl is one such volunteer who discovered golf later in life and has found various ways to give back to the game. As a starter at Yankee Trace Golf Club, he enjoys the banter on the first tee, helping groups begin their day on the right foot. Leo’s easy going nature fits with the role of a starter and player’s assistant (a newly minted term for course ranger). It’s easy to picture him kindly urging a group to catch up with the golfers ahead of them or cracking a joke with a foursome on the tee box before they begin their round. He’s easy to talk to and enjoys meeting new people every day while being a familiar face to regulars at Yankee Trace. “People are there to have fun,” Leo said, “and I’m there to assist them.”
Starting golf “late in life” might mean different things to different people. For Leo, it meant stepping foot on the Rollandia par 3 course with his wife at the age of 65. They were both retired and had some time on their hands, and golf at Rollandia seemed like an affordable new hobby. As Leo dipped his toes further into the game, he started playing in a men’s league on Friday mornings at Rollandia. He enjoyed the challenge of the game, and learned to take each shot at face value. “I’m not fearful of anything. If my ball goes in the bunker, I go and hit it out of the bunker.” After a beat he quipped, “but I rarely hit it in the bunker.” Golf has also helped Leo’s patience, and but importantly he said, “I’ve met some really fine people.”
With his new hobby and a men’s league to play in, Leo started to help set-up the closest to the pin and purchased golf balls in the clubhouse for the various awards handed out each week. Just like any organization, once you’re involved they start to give out new responsibilities. Before he knew it, he was organizing the men’s league and then he was on the first tee as a starter at Rollandia until the course shut down in 2017.
Yankee Trace was Leo’s next stop and he’s been a starter and player’s assistant there for five years. Of course there are the headaches to deal with. Fivesomes taking pictures, slow groups, grumpy neighbors, but Leo appreciates the ebs and flows of the day. He observes people as they move from the carpark to the clubhouse to the practice green to the first tee. He notices how they communicate. He notices the ones that show up early and the ones that rush to the first tee just in the knick of time.
Over the last 9 years Leo has found another way to give back. He runs a golf outing every year. It started as an eight person event, but last October the event ballooned to 111 participants. He organizes it all through email and welcomes any and all golfers to attend. The event is called the Leo Scholl Golf Tournament. A name coined by Leo’s friend back when it was just eight guys gathering for a round of golf. The name ultimately stuck. Depending on the year, Leo will use the tournament to raise money for the Strength for Service, Inc. which provides daily devotional books to members of the armed forces and emergency responders. A charity that was started when a young man discovered his grandfather’s World War II army uniform with a devotional tucked inside a pocket. In some years, the tournament is just for fun, without any fundraising tied to it. Just a group of golf lovers getting together to play and enjoy each other’s company. Last year Leo’s tournament raised nearly $900 for Strength for Service.
The roles of a golf course volunteer are vast: Welcoming golfers, helping them find their way, ensuring the pace of play is on time, filling water coolers and sand buckets, managing various personalities, enforcing golf cart rules. It all needs to be done with a smile and a positive attitude. In the words of Leo, sometimes he’s “largely ignored,” but he can’t let that get him down or frustrate him. He understands that his job is to ensure every golfer is enjoying their day at Yankee Trace and that things runs smoothly.
So as the golf season wears on, remember to thank the volunteers that make a golf course run just a little bit more smoothly. You never know, you might meet someone like Leo, who is ready to tell a story or crack a joke and make your day just a little bit brighter.
(If you are interested in playing in Leo’s tournament, it will be held at Yankee Trace on October 11, 2021. Leo encourages anyone interested to email him firstname.lastname@example.org)