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Caves Valley ran an exceptional BMW tournament - for volunteers and spectators | READER COMMENTARY

Patrick Cantlay, left, and Bryson DeChambeau shake hands after they completed the 18th hole tied to go into playoff play during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Patrick Cantlay, left, and Bryson DeChambeau shake hands after they completed the 18th hole tied to go into playoff play during the final round of the BMW Championship golf tournament, Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

In a recent letter to the editor, Claire Hoffman, a resident of Lutherville, criticized the way Caves Valley treated tournament volunteers and spectators (”Caves Valley treated tournament volunteers (and spectators) poorly,” Sept. 9).

She could not have been more wrong. The Western Open FedEx BMW Championship is the largest and most successful golf tournament to be held in Maryland in my memory, which goes back to the 1965 Walker Cup, the biannual competition between the United States and Great Britain. Since then, I have been a course volunteer for nine PGA, USGA and Big Ten golf championships.

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Planning for the BMW was a huge logistical challenge that began two years before the 69 best professionals in the world checked in at Caves Valley. Within months of the announcement that Caves Valley would host the championship, over 2,000 golf enthusiasts from Maryland and all parts of the country volunteered. Being a volunteer, in any capacity, at a major championship is always a challenging task.

Ms. Hoffman’s first complaint was “despite the scorching hot temperatures, no one appears to have placed water at each hole for the volunteers.” It is true that marshals were asked not to use the water reserved for players on tee boxes. However, there was cold water available to marshals from other sources. Coolers placed at key positions contained cold water. Hole captains dispensed cold water from plastic bags full of ice. And the product delivery volunteers, responsible for delivering ice and water to tee boxes, distributed water to volunteers along their delivery routes.

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As a marshal responsible for covering all 18 holes, I had the use of a radio and golf cart. I carried a cooler that contained ice and bottled water. When I needed a refill, the product delivery volunteers would restock my cart. I distributed approximately 400 bottles of cold water per day to on course volunteers. Finally, hole captains with radios made it known when water was needed on their respective holes.

Ms. Hoffman’s second complaint was that volunteers had to park at Stevenson University and be shuttled to Caves Valley. She mentioned that in other events held at Caves Valley Country Club, like the LPGA International Crown in 2014 or PGA Senior Players Championship in 1917, volunteers were permitted to park in the open field adjacent to the club’s entrance across Park Height Avenue. In both cases, there were far fewer volunteers and spectators.

The BMW Championship was many times larger, attracting well over 150,000 visitors. The field was needed for vendors, buses and others who were working every day of the tournament — sunup to sundown. And at Caves Valley, Park Heights Avenue is merely a two-lane country road that could not accommodate such a large volume of traffic. Volunteers and spectators, even Caves Valley members, were provided parking as close to Caves Valley as attainable. Buses were employed to transport people to and from the entrance.

The end result is that neither the hot weather nor off-site parking kept spectators away. Millions of people, either in person or via television, took the opportunity to see the very best PGA players compete in a spectacular event that including a suspenseful playoff finish on one of Maryland’s most pristine golf courses. Millions of dollars supplemented Maryland’s economy or were raised on behalf of the Evans Scholarship Fund, the largest college scholarship fund in the United States. As a veteran volunteer, it is difficult for me to imagine how Caves Valley could have done any better.

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John Voneiff II, Towson

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