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updated: 9/11/2013 5:52 AM

BMW volunteers unsung heroes of tournament

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  • Volunteer Coordinator Kelsey Knapp, left, speaks with vendors outside the volunteer hospitality tent at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Volunteers are a crucial part of tournament operations, organizers say.

       Volunteer Coordinator Kelsey Knapp, left, speaks with vendors outside the volunteer hospitality tent at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Volunteers are a crucial part of tournament operations, organizers say.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Sean Finnegan of Lindenhurst holds up his hands to keep the crowd quiet on the first hole as golfers tee off for a practice round at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.

       Volunteer Sean Finnegan of Lindenhurst holds up his hands to keep the crowd quiet on the first hole as golfers tee off for a practice round at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Brian Shell, Western Golf Association education director, talks to the volunteer caddies, all Evans Scholars, on the first day of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.

       Brian Shell, Western Golf Association education director, talks to the volunteer caddies, all Evans Scholars, on the first day of the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Cynthia Taylor of Chicago holds up an indicator paddle on the first hole as golfers tee off at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Volunteers are a crucial part of tournament operations, organizers say.

       Volunteer Cynthia Taylor of Chicago holds up an indicator paddle on the first hole as golfers tee off at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Volunteers are a crucial part of tournament operations, organizers say.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer Sharon Collias, right, scans tickets as visitors pass through the front gate at the BMW Championship Monday at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.

       Volunteer Sharon Collias, right, scans tickets as visitors pass through the front gate at the BMW Championship Monday at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Volunteer C.M. Bottema of Indianapolis, left, holds the line as golfer Chris Stroud signs autographs at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Volunteers are a crucial part of tournament operations, organizers say.

       Volunteer C.M. Bottema of Indianapolis, left, holds the line as golfer Chris Stroud signs autographs at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest. Volunteers are a crucial part of tournament operations, organizers say.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

 
 

While much of the focus at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest is on the golfers and a handful of professional organizers, the unsung heroes of the event are the 1,600 volunteers ensuring everything runs smoothly.

And as volunteer coordinator, it's Kelsey Knapp's job to make sure they know how to do that.

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This year's volunteer staff comes from 23 states and two foreign countries, Knapp said, though the majority are from the Midwest.

"We have a good number of North Shore residents because it's such a large area," she said.

Much of the work of securing volunteers takes place during the winter before the event. Though individuals drop out and have to be replaced almost until the start of the tournament, the core group had been identified more than six months ago.

The first set of volunteer invitations went out in December to Conway Farms club members. Next were invites to previous volunteers in January, and finally to the general public in February.

Though volunteers receive training in the days and weeks preceding the tournament, the more experienced volunteers generally end up with the jobs of greater responsibility, Knapp said. These include being walking scorers during play, providing VIP transportation for the players and making sure that regulations on the use of cellphones and cameras are being followed by everyone on the course.

Other volunteer committees focus on access control, admissions, caddie hospitality, corporate hospitality, child care, merchandise, standard bearers, scoreboards and practice areas.

In addition to material rewards such as T-shirts, wind jackets and passes for guests, volunteers have a much richer experience of the tournament and a deeper insight into everything that goes on behind the scenes, Knapp said.

The working responsibilities aren't necessarily all-consuming during the tournament, but volunteers are asked to work at least three shifts of about five hours each, she said.

A party for the volunteers was held at Conway Farms Saturday afternoon to acknowledge their commitment and contributions to the tournament.

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