Marathon Classic volunteer Roy Rozell celebrated his 90th birthday in April and he will show up for his 35th year as a volunteer this July when the LPGA returns to Ohio.
Rozell got his start as a tournament volunteer in 1984 with the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic, which ran from 1984-1996. The event became the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic in 1997 (through 2003), before being named the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic (2004-2010), and then the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic in 2012 (with three presenting sponsors).
The event was re-launched as the Marathon Classic in 2013 to present.
During Rozell’s tenure, he has not only seen the sponsors and tournament names change, but he has also donned his volunteer gear on two different courses, including Glengarry Country Club in Holland, Ohio (renamed Stone Oak Country Club) and later, at Highland Meadows Country Club in Sylvania, Ohio, where the tournament has been staged from 1989 to present. (The event was not held in 1986 and 2011.)
Rozell owned Rozell Landscaping, so when McDonald’s began expanding its franchises into smaller towns in the late 1970s, he saw an opportunity to landscape the new restaurants as they moved into Northwestern Ohio where he lived.
He met Chris Wicks, who became the manager of the McDonald’s franchise in Bryan, Ohio, and Wicks got Rozell the job of landscaping the restaurant’s grounds. Wicks also became the tournament chairman of the new Toledo LPGA event that was getting started in 1984, and was in charge of finding volunteers.
“Chris and I were friends, so when an LPGA golf tournament was going to be started in Toledo, he wanted me to participate,” said Rozell, of Montpelier, Ohio. “So I did.”
Rozell was assigned to help out in scoring, so he walked with the groups on the course and helped keep the gallery out of play during the tournament.
“That was before we had ropes,” said Rozell, remembering the tournament’s early days. “When the players were competing, the pressure was on and the crowds were there, the volunteers kept people back by holding hands.”
When the tournament moved to Sylvania, Rozell became a volunteer hole captain. He oversaw the par-five 17th hole for years, which was a busy part of the golf course with two gallery crossovers and loads of fans.
“When you’re a hole captain, you’re responsible for getting your volunteers to work each day,” added Rozell. “There’s a lot of walking and you also have to get water and food to them out on the course.”
Eventually, Rozell was assigned a par-3 hole closer to the clubhouse, which he called “a piece of cake to take care of.”
In the early 2000s, he became the tournament’s area captain, which placed him in charge of the volunteers on the first six holes on the course. Still serving in that role, Rozell also makes sure the ropes are taken down each afternoon so the grounds crew can mow, and then he makes sure the ropes are replaced for the next day of competition.
“I live about 55 miles from the golf course, so I have to get up about 4 in the morning to get there by 6 a.m.,” he added. “I also have to make sure our hole captains are in position in time. If they aren’t there, I fill in until they arrive.”
One of Rozell’s fun duties is making sure his volunteers get pizza on Saturday and Sunday of the Marathon Classic. A pizza franchise in Toledo treats the workers to pizza on the weekend, so his golf cart is busy keeping the volunteers happy and full.
“Roy’s devotion to service has helped benefit over 100 Northwest Ohio children’s charities throughout the past years,” said Heather Warga, volunteer coordinator of the Marathon Classic. “The tournament is extremely grateful for his service and fortunate to have him as part of our volunteer team.”
Naturally, Rozell has many memories from his 35 years of volunteer work at the tournament. He enjoyed the period of the event when it was affiliated with Toledo-born actor Jamie Farr, star of the M*A*S*H* television show.
“I still have all of my volunteer shirts and hats from that time,” he said.
His favorite player is still LPGA Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez.
“She was like the girl next door and she would come up and hug you and treat you like a friend,” he added. “We’re not supposed to talk to the players unless they want to talk to us, but Nancy always wanted to talk.”
“And then we had Se Ri Pak,” Rozell added, of the South Korean LPGA Hall of Fame member who won the tournament five times. “She was something else – a wonderful player and very humble.”
There has also been at least one rainy tournament week and a swollen summer creek that caused concern.
Rozell recalled the tournament once having to quickly build scaffolding over a creek that runs through the course after a heavy rainstorm nearly caused a flood.
“That creek became a river that almost took us down, but we hauled people across the bridge that was built and we made it through the week,” he added.
Rozell has been an early riser since his childhood growing up on a farm in Indiana. Born in 1928, his family’s farming was done with workhorses. They also had chickens, sheep, pigs and cattle. They raised corn and wheat, and made hay and straw.
And his family didn’t have electricity until 1939. A rooster in the barnyard started each day and a hard day’s work made sleep a welcome conclusion each evening.
“We had to milk 18 cows in the morning, do the chores, eat breakfast and get ready for school because my dad had to be on the road as a school-bus driver at 7:15 a.m.,” he said. “We worked on the farm 365 days a year, around the clock, so I’m used to getting up early and working hard.”
In addition to working as a tournament volunteer, Rozell is also active in his local Rotary Club, which raises funds for scholarships. He recently completed 50 years of perfect attendance with his chapter.
When asked why he enjoys volunteering, Rozell said he enjoys being with people and that he finds most people interesting.
“During the Great Depression and during war, you depended on friends and neighbors for entertainment or to help get work done,” he said. “When you were in trouble, or when there was sorrow or happiness, friends and neighbors were the ones you turned to. Things have changed, but I still believe that people are naturally good and want to share what they have achieved and what they feel.”
Rozell loves the fact that the LPGA’s Toledo tournament is one of the tour’s smallest markets. And he is proud that many local families provide private housing for players during the tournament week.
“We seem to be able to put it together pretty well each year,” he added.
The proud patriarch of four adult grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, Rozell and his wife Marlene live down the street from their two adult daughters. He plays a little golf, collects a few antiques, follows the Detroit Tigers, but largely tries to get the most out of each day.
“When you get to be 90, you can’t look ahead too far,” he said. “I’m very optimistic and I’ve been very fortunate with my health all my life. The Lord has been good to me with my family, my work and my body.”
But admittedly, each summer, there’s a little excitement in the air for Rozell and his team of volunteers at the Marathon Classic. It’s like the start of school, with the wonder of a new season just getting ready to unfold.
“I look forward to meeting with all the volunteers, picking up the uniforms and getting ready to go,” he said. “It’s just the anticipation of that first day and getting everybody lined up on the same page.”
As a nominee for the 2018 XL Catlin Volunteer Service Award, Rozell will share the honor with a deserving local charity if his name is drawn at the end of the year.
And at this year’s Marathon Classic, Rozell returns for duty just as excited as he was when he started volunteering at the Ohio event 35 years ago.
The XL Catlin Volunteer Award was first started at the America’s Cup, where it recognized outstanding volunteers who give back to the local community in its headquartered country of Bermuda. XL Catlin is a global company that provides insurance and reinsurance to clients in more than 215 countries. As risk experts, XL Catlin relies on innovation and creativity to drive business and provide a unique approach to risk management