Volunteering for Sr. PGA Championship rewarding

Published 6:07 am Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Niles’ Frelen Gowen, Chris Zache and Skip Miller (above) have all volunteered for the Sr. PGA Championship at Harbor Shores May 20-25. Dowagiac’s Dave Daniels (below) is seen at the 2012 event. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Niles’ Frelen Gowen, Chris Zache and Skip Miller (above) have all volunteered for the Sr. PGA Championship at Harbor Shores May 20-25. Dowagiac’s Dave Daniels (below) is seen at the 2012 event. (Leader photo/CRAIG HAUPERT)

Two years ago, area golf fans got a chance to see some of the legends of the sport compete in the Sr. PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor.

Not only did they get a chance to watch the likes of Fred Couples from outside the ropes, several of them volunteered to work at the event and got up close and personal with the event.

The Sr. PGA Championship is returning to Harbor Shores May 20-25 and golf fans have once again stepped up to the tee and volunteered to help make it a success just as it was two years ago.

Niles’ Frelen Gowen and Chris Zache, along with Skip Miller, are among those who have volunteered to work at this year’s event.

Gowen, who is a coach and educator at Three Rivers High School, and Zache, who is a secretary at Brandywine High School, are making a return trip to Benton Harbor to work at the event.

Miller, who is retired, is volunteering for the first time.

Dave Daniels, who is retiring as Dowagiac’s maintenance supervisor at the end of the school year, is also returning to Harbor Shores, with his wife, Cathy to volunteer.

Two years ago, Daniels said it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“It’s been pretty unbelievable,” Daniels said. “Just to walk the course with the players. To see the shots. To get a pairing with Fred Couples and Kenny Perry, I’m probably one of the luckiest guys in Michigan right now.”

Daniels did several things during the tournament, including working the electronic scorekeeping system.

Gowen and Zache had a similar experience.

They marshaled on hole No. 3 and relished the chance to get “up close and personal with the pros.”

“Not only did we enjoy the golf aspect of it, but we met a lot of good people who were doing it as well,” Gowen said. “It was a good experience so we decided to do it again.”

“The first few days when they are just in the practice rounds the pros who are out there are very sociable with you,” Zache said. “They will talk to you and they will intermingle and I even got a high-five from Brad Faxon. That was fun.”

But that all changes once the tournament starts.

“You stand like a soldier,” Zache said.

“They tell you, ‘you don’t speak to them unless they speak to you first,’” Gowen added.

Miller’s golf buddies talked him into volunteering.

“I play in a golf league where I used to work for 25 years,” he said. “It’s the Gast employees golf league at Indian Lake. Two years ago about a half-dozen of those guys volunteered and they tried to talk me into it, but I said no.

“So when it came around this year, they were on me about doing it and telling me about how much fun it is. I thought, what the heck, I love golf. I can’t play enough.”

So he contacted the Sr. PGA and they told him to pick a committee. He got online and picked the transportation committee thinking it would be driving golfers around the course on carts.

Instead, it was shuttling people from the South Bend Airport to the golf course and picking up players and officials at their hotel and getting them to the course.

Since he did not feel comfortable doing that, he attempted to switch to a different committee.

But instead of getting off one committee, he is now on two committees — transportation and leaderboards.

“I checked the assignments and they don’t conflict, so I said, ‘heck, I will do both,’” Miller said.

Volunteers pay a $130 fee, but receive the following:

• An official Senior PGA Championship uniform including 75th Senior PGA Championship shirt, wind jacket and hat/visor

• Official 75th Senior PGA Championship Journal

• A one-time $10 discount at the Championship Golf Shop

• Preferred parking

• Food and water vouchers

• One ‘Any Day’ ticket for a friend or family member

• One round of golf (cart rental not included), at Harbor Shores if all assigned shifts are completed*

Among the players who have already committed to play in the tournament are defending champion Kohki Idoki, 2012 champion Roger Chapman, Tom Watson, Couples, Perry, Bernhard Langer and Mark O’Meara.