Volunteers ready for Kingsmill Championship

Contact Reporterkholtzman@vagazette.com

Doug Foltz’s cellphone rang 63 times on Monday.

The storage warehouse that Foltz oversees for the LPGA Kingsmill Championship, which kicked off Monday with a qualifying round and finishes Sunday, barring weather delays, fielded another dozen or so calls.

“What can Doug do for you” would be a good slogan for the 74-year-old former Newport News Shipbuilding worker. Any delivery of any sort that comes to Kingsmill for the event goes through Foltz and his crew of four.

Better yet, the newest slogan for the famous brown truck delivery service, “We love logistics,” also suits Foltz and many of the hundreds of other volunteers who make the annual tournament possible.

Many of the Kingsmill volunteers’ stories have been told, although few of the helpers have been at it as long as Foltz. He has been volunteering since 1981 when he worked for former lead tournament sponsor Anheuser-Busch, when the PGA Tour began making its annual stop prior to the LPGA’s arrival in 2003.

The range of the volunteers’ duties is staggering in scope, a seemingly neverending trove of sometimes tedious and occasionally entertaining tasks that are not entirely thankless. Volunteers almost always cite the gratitude LPGA pros show them as motivation for coming back to help.

Some volunteers return year after year because of pride and fellowship, while others, such as the United Service Organizations volunteers representing each military branch, come to give back.

A common theme unites the varying groups.

“It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s PGA or LPGA,” Foltz said. “We still pride ourselves on making it the best tournament on the tour.”

USO unity

“Roger, it’s on its way,” a USO volunteer radioed across the River Course on Monday afternoon in the shade beside the 10th hole.

The mission, after several volunteers took a brief break to watch Sandra Gal rip an approach shot from the fairway: ice delivery.

Some of their tasks may seem simple, but all are essential.

Players need to drink and eat, and so do the volunteers.

Someone has to communicate to Golf Channel broadcasters which club Lexi Thompson just pulled out and how far she is from the green. Coast Guardsman Robert Bradshaw of Suffolk has done that, along with driving cameramen around in carts and carrying one of the boom mics that picks up course-level sound for broadcasts. Once, he stood behind a hole directly in the line of a player’s shot, inattentively toting the mic, before the caddy shooed him away.

The list of jobs goes on and on, though it’s not quite as long as the 60,000 feet of rope Coast Guard volunteers helped stake into the ground for the tournament.

“It’s very much like a military operation the way it is task-organized,” said hospitality chairman Deputy Scott Nance.

Nance and tourney liason John Zimmerman each are retired Army helicopter pilots who still fly. Both view the military branches working together at Kingsmill like a combat operation.

This year, Zimmerman is sporting a commemorative pin for 20 years of volunteer service in the Kingsmill pro tourneys. For past events, he has manned the USO coordinator position, which Steve Lahr currently holds.

Zimmerman said, “When we gang up on an enemy, guess what? There’s nobody out there that’s going to compete against us.”

Zimmerman, Bradshaw and the Navy’s Brittany Littler each noted how they have been beneficiaries of USO airport service offered for troops and their families.

Littler is making her tournament debut in concessions near the practice green and recalled USO representatives in airports making her feel comfortable traveling alone as a child while visiting her Navy parents.

Each year, a portion of the tournament’s proceeds go back to the USO of Hampton Roads and Central Virginia.

“We all come together,” said Zimmerman, a Tucson, Ariz., native who worked in Army aviation logistics for a quarter of a century. “We’re fighting for the same reason, and that’s to take care of our USO.”

Warehouse life

One of the most pressing matters Tuesday morning for Foltz’s warehouse team was completing the deliveries of volunteer uniforms. Committee leaders or chairmen get a light-colored shirt, while others get dark blue. It is the sort of job that usually goes unnoticed but starts in the converted Kingsmill laundry building tucked away off a Woods Course service road adjacent to Route 60.

Palettes of water, signage, scoreboard scaffolding — almost anything you can think of — comes through the warehouse.

Joining Foltz are Phil Rehrig, Tom West and Glenn Miller.

Between them, they boast close to 100 years of tourney volunteer experience, and their jobs begin more than a month before the golf does.

Foltz is indispensable since he has been involved with everything from the old PGA pro/am on Mondays and Wednesdays to golf cart and caddy committees.

Foltz, West and Miller each are retired shipyard veterans, and Rehrig is retired from the Air Force.

“I enjoy being able to see that what’s done at the tournament gets done on time,” West said. “When something needs to be done, it gets done. I hate to wait for anything. That’s not the way my personality is.”

Foltz is wired the same way. He says he hasn’t seen more than a half hour of golf in 34 years.

By Tuesday, they say you would never even know there was a tournament staged here.

Foltz manages to take the hustle and bustle in stride and said in his six years as warehouse coordinator, a package has never been lost.

“Sometimes it gets a little aggravating, but it’s fun,” Foltz said. “If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

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