The First Tee Junior Course Reporters

Wednesday and Thursday (April 2, 2014 - April 3, 2014) 
My Experience as a Junior Course Reporter 
Hayden Pocock, 15 yrs

My experience as a Junior Course Reporter for The First Tee of Greater Houston at the Shell Houston Open consisted of meeting some great people.  As the day started I met a man named Sean Martin who is a reporter. He told me that his job is to plan events for large tournaments. I asked him who his favorite golfer is and his response was Rory Mcllroy, Zach Johnson, and Charles Howell III. The reasons they are his favorite golfers are because they are very nice and they are willing to talk with the reporters.

As the day went on we got to meet a the TOUR rules executive named Robby Ware. Whoes weekly duties include setting the tees, modifying course conditions and selecting locations for the TV towers.  I asked him if he travels to other tournaments and he told me that he traveled to China , to the Open Championship, Presidents Cup, and the Masters. Then I asked him how long the notice to players takes to put together and his response was, “one day and you learn overtime”. He also told me that everyone works together to create the notice to players.

I also met Mark Russell who is the Vice President of rules competition for the PGA tours. I asked him why he wanted to get into the golf industry and his response was that he grew up playing golf.

Next , I had an opportunity to go into the manufacturing truck for TaylorMade. I learned that they fix the pros equipment when needed, can make a golf club in five minutes and they also carry all of the latest equipment.

Then I was able to visit Player Services and met a volunteer named Vikki Hale, who is the Coordinator of Player Services. She helps with player registration and helps the families around  town. She also helps with will call tickets for the pros and their families. She told me a fun fact is that the tournament provided sixty players with tickets to go to the Astros opening day. She is the information hub for the players and their families for the tournament. She told us that the players must sign an entry form, and when they sign it they are issued an yardage book and their allotment of tickets. She said that there is an alternate list just in case players drop out. 2014 marks her twentieth year volunteering. And she loves every minute of it. She has also volunteered with the Tour Championship and the Nationwide Championship. Vikki said, “it’s not about us, it’s about the players”.

Next, I met a guy name Dr. Troy Van Diezen. He is a physical therapist and a chiropractor and ensures that all of the pros he works with get all of the nutrition they need. He worked with the Dallas Cowboys and the Dallas Stars noting that without the right care the players can get injured. He works with DA Points, Rickie Fowler, and Zach Johnson.

On day two I visited SHOTLink truck where Imet a man named Dallas Kirkendoll. He is the liaison between SHOTLinks and the tournament. I learned that the company is owned by the PGA Tour  and they walking scores & laser operations. Every par three has one laser at the green and every par four has one laser in the fairway with another by the green. Every par five has two lasers in the fairway and one by the green. There are 150 to 400 SHOTLink volunteers, who are in charge of the score board. There is a fun fact that he told us: over 400 countries around the world get the information.

My experience as a junior reporter for The First Tee of Greater Houston was an amazing and one that I will never forget.  The highlight of my time here was meeting Rory Mcllroy, Steve Stricker, J.B. Holmes, and Keegan Bradley.


Once in a Lifetime Opportunity 
Annika Clark, 16 yrs

The past couple of days, I have been blessed with a once in a lifetime opportunity through The First Tee by being a Jr. Course Reporter. I have been able to explore behind the scenes and interview essential people from the Shell Houston Open at the Golf Club of Houston. Everyone that I have gotten the chance to talk to from Ms. Anne, the media center “mom” to Vikki Hale, a devout volunteer to Player Services, has simply amazed me with all of the work that they put in to making sure that this tournament is one of the best of the year.

            The place that we visited that I found most interesting was Player Services. As soon as we walked into Player Services we passed by Rickie Fowler while he was registering, which I was not expecting at all. I was pretty star struck when he walked right past us. We were very fortunate to have the Coordinator of Player Services, Vikki Hale, a veteran volunteer of 20 years, lead us around.  She explained to us all of the jobs that the volunteers in Player Services have, and how essential they are in making the player and their families feel comfortable. They are in charge of ensuring that the players register within their required time frame, supplying the players with information about the city that they are in, supplying the players with tickets to different activities, making sure that their families are comfortable, giving them a yardage book, and they are also in charge of the master list of players in the tournament. It was pretty astounding to see how much background work goes into the few days of the tournament, but it was even better to see how much the volunteers enjoy spending their time on the tournament.

            We were also given the opportunity to tour the inside of the Taylor-Made Manufacturer Truck, where it was crazy to see all of the equipment that they have. We were able to have Henry Luna and Mark Gerent explain to us exactly what goes on inside of their truck. They described the truck as a sort of “pit stop” for the guys on tour, where they can go if they need to make alterations to their clubs before the round or if they are just looking for a place to hang out and play video games or watch TV. All of the Manufacturer Trucks are required to leave the premises before the start of the tournament, due to multiple reasons such as having enough travel time for the next event and the fact that the players cannot alter their clubs during a tournament.

            We were fortunate enough to meet two of the main Rules Officials this week, Robby Ware and Mark Russell, who were very informative in what they do for the Shell Houston Open. Robby Ware who was assigned the job of Advanced Rules Official this week had to come to the course a week in advance in order to set up the course and mark it correctly. They also have to meet with the tournament committee in order to assure that everything is in place for the week of the tournament. Mark Russell, the Vice President of Rules and Competitions, explained how they work at about 30 tournaments a year and rotate jobs each week. This week there are eight Rules Officials working at the Shell Houston Open.

            The last place that I got to visit was the SHOTLinks trailer where Dallas Kirkendoll, the liaison between SHOTLinks and the Shell Houston Open, thoroughly explained his job and the responsibilities of SHOTLinks. They are in charge of what is shown of the scoreboards and also the statistics and scores of all of the players. There are two different portions to SHOTLinks, walking scorers and laser operators, both of which are all volunteer workers. At any given PGA event there about anywhere from 150-400 volunteers on sight in correlation with SHOTLinks. They also send their information to the television networks, so that the viewers from home are able to see the live scoreboard. I was shocked at how quickly they get all of the information to different places and how precise everything that they do is.

            I am honored that I was selected for the opportunity of visiting places that I otherwise would not be able to visit. I truly did learn a great deal of what goes on behind the scenes from my experience as a Jr. Course Reporter at the Shell Houston Open. I have also gained more respect for everyone that dedicates their time to ensure that this tournament is successful. Thank you so much for this opportunity!