Tournament volunteer Bill Young admits he will be watching to see which LPGA Tour players take a swing at the meticulously stacked pyramids of range balls at this week’s CME Group Tour Championship.
That’s because the practice-range volunteers at the CME event add a special touch to the stacks of 91 range balls each day.
“Those pyramid-shaped stacks of balls have one ball at the very top, so what we do is carefully balance one more single ball on top of it,” said Young, the tournament’s driving range chairman. “Sometimes the players will walk up and hit that single ball off the top of the stack.”
Perhaps for his attention to detail, Young has been named as the CME Group Tour Championship’s 2019 AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award Winner. He will be recognized this week as one of the exemplary volunteers identified at each of the LPGA Tour events this season.
“Bill has been involved with the CME Group Tour Championship since its inception as the driving range chairperson and his love of the game, along with his enthusiasm for the tournament, are shown each and every day,” said Sarah Smith, tournament coordinator for Wasserman Golf.
“He is one of the first volunteers here in the morning and one of the last to leave, making sure all LPGA players are taken care of while out on the range,” added Smith. “We are very fortunate that he is part of our team.”
A retired physician, Young and his wife Mindy moved in 2000 to Naples, Fla., from their home in Lancaster, Pa. They lived part-time in Florida for 10 years prior to their permanent relocation, so Young knew the area well by the time they settled in southwest Florida.
Young began volunteering on the driving range at professional tournaments in 2001. At that time, his Naples golf club, The Club at The Strand, hosted the LPGA Tour’s season-opening event -- the LPGA Subaru of Naples Invitational.
Even after the Subaru tournament ended, Young volunteered at other area professional events and reconnected with the LPGA when the CME Group tournament was launched in 2014 at Tiburon Resort in Naples.
“I really enjoy working with the LPGA Tour players,” said Young, who has played to a golf handicap of 15. “The players are friendly and nice and while the men’s swings can be almost anything, the women usually have golf swings that are a real thing of beauty.”
Each autumn when the LPGA Tour rolls into Naples, Young’s job is to organize and schedule the 30 volunteers who help him run the practice range during tournament week. Another volunteer, Canadian Bob LaCroix, has helped Young orchestrate the range and perfect those pyramids for the last six years.
“He’s helpful and I couldn’t ask for a better partner,” said Young, who now has about 19 years of volunteer experience at professional golf tournaments. “Bob also knows some of the French-speaking players out on the practice range.”
While Young says he has enjoyed working with all the LPGA players as a volunteer, he admits the player he admires the most is Lydia Ko of New Zealand. Ko was the winner of the first CME event in 2014, and made a big impression on Young with her poise and professionalism at such a young age.
“She’s just a charming young lady,” said Young. “Whenever I look at LPGA golf scores in the newspaper, the first player’s name I look for is Lydia Ko.”
As a former physician in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam era, one of Young’s greatest joys is performing volunteer service with the Honor Guard.
All military veterans themselves, the Honor Guard visits and honors dying U.S. military veterans in hospitals and hospice care. They conduct special bedside ceremonies in full uniform for the infirmed before they die.
“We present them with an American flag and with a hand-made quilt and we salute them,” said Young. “We also read to them what they have done in the military and try to honor them. Sometimes they are awake and alert during their ceremony and sometimes they are not.”
Young was especially touched by his experience during a visit with one veteran. The man was resting in his bed, chin down and barely breathing, but it became apparent he knew what was going on.
“He didn’t move a muscle during the whole ceremony, but I can tell you that the last thing to go when you are dying is your hearing, and as we saluted him, his hand very, very slowly went up to his forehead and he saluted us back,” said Young.
When asked why he has volunteered for professional golf events, such as LPGA tournaments, the QBE (Shark) Shootout and others held in South Florida, Young says he likes the thought of being able to help others, not only on the range where he volunteer but also as a part of the tournament.
“These tournaments give a lot of money to charity, so because we volunteer, they don’t have to hire people to do our jobs,” he said. “Indirectly, I feel that I’m helping to give money to the charities, which helps many other people.”
And what does he try to bring to the tournament in his volunteer role each year?
“I want to show the players that we are there to help them,” he added. “We have so many wonderful volunteers who return each year to help. They wash the golf balls, stack them on the range for the players to practice, and we post the names of each player for fans to watch them.”
Young said he is “honored” to have been chosen as his tournament’s winning volunteer, but added that he is “surprised” to have been selected because of the many exemplary volunteers at the event.
“All of our volunteers are successful, retired individuals who are also dedicated to the same thing I am,” he said. “Everybody is willing to do whatever they have to do to make our tournament a good experience for everybody.”
Young will be there in the early morning hours before players arrive at the range each day. He will oversee that there are 20 pyramids of range balls perfectly stacked, aligned and waiting for the players as they prepare for their rounds.
While his staff of volunteers are buzzing around the range and attending to the needs of players, Young says he will be paying attention to see which players just might be feeling a little something extra during the LPGA Tour’s final season event. As always, he will be watching to see which player this week might feel most inclined to cleanly pick the top ball off the heap and fearlessly fire away.
Bruce Bennett from the HUGEL-Air Premia LA Open was named as the overall volunteer winner for the 2019 LPGA Tour season. Like all other nominated 2019 LPGA tournament wining volunteers, Bennett’s name was placed into a random drawing for a $10,000 prize by AXA. The tournament charity of the Hugel-Air Premia LA Open will receive the cash prize to use as needed in their community.
AXA XL, the property & casualty and specialty risk division of AXA, provides insurance and risk management products and services for mid-sized companies through to large multinationals, and reinsurance solutions to insurance companies globally. AXA XL proudly serves as the Official Property/Casualty, Reinsurance, Auto and Professional Liability Insurance Sponsor of the LPGA. Additionally, AXA XL has partnered with the LPGA on a season-long AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award which recognizes tournament volunteers who have exemplified the spirit of volunteerism and gone above and beyond expectations. For more information, please visit www.axaxl.com