When former club president Dick Wunderlich learned an LPGA tournament was coming to Travis Pointe Country Club, there was no hesitation about getting involved at his home course.
That meeting was held in 2015, followed by the first tournament volunteers meeting in early 2016.
“When we committed the club’s facilities, I think we all felt we had also committed our personal efforts to make it successful,” said Wunderlich, who retired from his periodontal practice six months ago in Canton Township near Ann Arbor, Mich., where he practiced for 40 years.
And when the roles for tournament volunteers were divvied out, Wunderlich raised his hand to co-chair the caddie services committee. After all, the Michigander had looped for his son Alex Wunderlich, in junior, local, state and national tournaments before the teen moved on to play college golf at Emory University.
“Nobody had volunteered for caddie services, so I jumped at the chance,” said Wunderlich, a solid amateur golfer with a handicap index of 8.
For the last three years, Wunderlich has helped the LPGA’s tour caddies be “as comfortable and well-informed as they can be,” he said. Each year, among his duties, he helps caddies get meals at the course, obtain tee sheets and yardage books, and informs them about local restaurants and area lodging.
“He has been an instrumental volunteer we heavily rely on to ensure a successful event,” said Paul Ejups, tournament manager of the LPGA Volvik Championship. “Dick has been a great asset to the tournament and is quick to help solve problems that arise during the week.”
Wunderlich’s familiarity with the club and course has come from his direct involvement at the fourth-year LPGA tournament venue. He recently completed a three-year stint on the club’s board of directors, with his tenure as club president ending on May 1.
“I guess you could say that I knew where all the light switches were,” joked Wunderlich. “You just try to help people. We all want our tournament to be successful.”
From the start, Wunderlich viewed the tournament’s presence at his home club as a “win-win-win-win situation.”
“The players get another place to compete and make a living; the club gets some prestige from hosting a tournament; sponsors get exposure; and you hope that in time, the charities will really benefit, too,” he said.
And it has been that kind of big-picture thinking that has enabled Wunderlich to set a very high standard in his role at the event, as well as alongside his volunteer peers.
“Dick has a genuine interest in contributing to the event’s success and he has helped spread a positive message about the tournament with the club’s other members,” added Ejups.
Wunderlich was called into emergency duty for one day last year when British player Holly Clyburn’s caddie experienced a family emergency and had to leave. Wunderlich not only carried Clyburn’s bag, but he and his wife ended up inviting the player to their home for dinner.
And when the Wunderlich family provided housing for the caddie of LPGA player Kim Kaufman last year, the doctor added another new connection to his players-to-watch list.
“Ever since the LPGA has come to our club, I look at the leaderboards from week to week, along with stories on the websites,” he said. “In the past, I didn’t really follow the LPGA results as closely. I knew a couple of the big names, but I never knew the other 150 to 200 players.”
“But having the chance to meet all the guys and gals that come through our caddie services has been great,” Wunderlich added. “They are a very diverse and interesting group and a lot of fun to interact with. You can’t help but get more involved in learning their history and watching their performance throughout the year.”
As a father of three, Wunderlich has always made time to volunteer in the Greater Ann Arbor community. He coached youth-league baseball, basketball and soccer and helped raise funds for high school sports booster clubs through local golf outings.
He also worked in scouting and with church youth groups. In addition, he has volunteered in local community kitchens and even pounded nails at area Habitat For Humanity projects, while his wife volunteered in non-profit thrift shops and with the local humane society.
“I think people volunteer for a variety of reasons,” said Wunderlich, a native of Kalamazoo, Mich. “It sounds cliché, but you get back more than you give when you volunteer. You feel good at the end of the day.”
Wunderlich appreciates having professional golf in his community and is proud for his club to host this year’s fourth annual LPGA Volvik Championship.
He considers caddying for Clyburn and playing in the event’s official pro-am for the last few years as highlights of his experience, so far.
And he rides the wave of enthusiasm for golf the tournament brings each year to his home course -- where he plans to spend more time this summer in his first year of retirement.
“I look forward to the excitement of the event each year because there’s a buzz about it,” said Wunderlich, who competes in the Michigan Senior Golf Association, where he won the Super Senior division last fall.
“It’s also fun to see the course transform when they start building skyboxes and grandstands,” he added.
Unlike some of the area’s older courses, which attracted competition among top PGA pros in the 1950s and ‘60s, Travis Pointe has only been around for about 40 years, Wunderlich noted.
But his home course now plays host to the world’s top women professionals and has also given volunteers like Wunderlich a spark each year when the tour comes to town.
As a nominee for the 2018 XL Catlin Volunteer Service Award, if his name is drawn at the end of the year, Wunderlich will share the honor with a deserving local charity.
But for now, tournament week is all about helping those who need assistance. He hopes to help make their week of competition in Michigan smoother and more enjoyable, while stoking his own enthusiasm for the LPGA as a friendly face and forever fan.
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.