Whether she’s organizing the setup of a professional golf tournament, a folk music festival, or providing equestrian opportunity for individuals with physical and emotional challenges, LPGA tournament volunteer Carol Parsons welcomes the chance to assist.
In fact, there’s something about building the infrastructure of an event and the volunteer team to run it that keeps Parsons coming back for more every year.
“It makes you grow,” said Parsons, who resides most of the year in Owen Sound, Ontario and winters in Scottsdale, Ariz., where she volunteers for both the PGA Tour’s Waste Management Phoenix Open and the LPGA’s Founders Cup.
The winning volunteer for the Founders Cup, Parsons -- who serves as the volunteer chair of the tournament office -- will be honored as one of the exemplary nominated volunteers identified by each LPGA tournament this season for the AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award. That award will be presented at the end of the season.
“Carol not only provides invaluable organizational skills when setting up and organizing our tournament office, but her customer service toward fans and LPGA professionals, along with her loyalty to LPGA staff is unparalleled, ” said Bella Koenig, manager of tournament business affairs and Founder’s Cup volunteer manager. “She is willing to take on whatever, whenever we need something.”
Parsons brings to the Founders Cup volunteer experience not only from the PGA Tour’s popular Phoenix tournament, but also from her days of serving at The Tradition event on the PGA Tour Champions when it was held at Desert Mountain.
That connection with local professional golf tournaments began as a spectator, but the Canadian go-getter wanted to help. This year marks her 16th year volunteering at the PGA Tour event.
And from her involvement at both PGA Tour tournaments, she was recruited more than 10 years ago to volunteer at the LPGA’s Standard Register Ping tournament at Moon Valley Country Club. That event moved to Superstition Mountain, becoming what is now the Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club.
“Phoenix-Scottsdale is a wonderful community with many volunteers who put in the time to make our community better,” said Parsons. “And if you volunteer in one place, you’ll be asked to volunteer in another place.”
In her tournament volunteer roles, Parsons has served as a hole captain, a locker room chairperson and now as the lead volunteer in the LPGA Founders Cup tournament office. That means her job starts on the Monday prior to the tournament and ends after the event’s final round.
That also means she tracks and sees that all packages are delivered at tournament site to players, staff and equipment reps. In addition, she works with her team to sort and distribute tournament uniforms and credentials to all volunteers, answer calls to the tournament office, provide directions and trouble shoot various tournament-week challenges.
At one event, LPGA player Lydia Ko was still waiting on a package delivery on a Sunday morning as the tournament entered the final round. Parsons was on the hunt for Ko’s package with the player’s tracking number. Ko ended up following Parsons deep into the host hotel’s receiving area, where they located the missing parcel.
“Sometimes you have the answer and sometimes you have an answer they don’t want to hear, but at least I try to give them an answer,” Parsons said.
Parsons was not always a golfer, though. A native of London, Ontario, she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland with her late partner, Max. The two began spending winters in Scottsdale, where they enjoyed trail riding in the desert.
Parsons had earned a degree in French at the University of Waterloo, and also studied abroad at the Universite de Nice, so when she and Max lived for years in Geneva, she was able to speak French daily. After Max died of a chronic disease, Parsons moved back to Canada in 1989, where she took up residence in Owen Sound, Ontario and began playing golf at age 37.
“Golf was a great way to meet people,” said Parsons, who got involved in the women’s golf league at Owen Sound Golf Club.
She began taking lessons, competing in league play and eventually running the club’s Ladies Invitational tournament for five years.
She was 23 when she took up horseback riding, so Parsons found some similarities when she also embraced golf later in life.
“I learned quickly that the horse will show you what you don’t know and the same was true with golf clubs,” she said.
Nearly 30 years ago, Parsons turned her experience of trail riding into practical application with a therapeutic horseback riding organization called GRACE, which stands for Georgian Riding Association for Challenged Equestrians. She helped train the horses and served as a sidewalker, providing emotional or physical support to child and adult riders in the program.
“There’s nothing cooler than receiving a handwritten note from one of the students saying, ‘Thank you for making us able to ride so we don’t need you,’” she said.
Parson’s sister served as board co-chair of Canada’s Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival, so of course, when she needed reliable volunteers, she tapped Parsons to get involved. For 10 years, Parsons helped shuttle musical instruments to the event’s six stages. She is now in her eighth year as the festival’s co-chair and is directly involved in seeing the event’s infrastructure built in a park -- from assembling stages and electrical wiring to coordinating with food vendors for the three-day festival.
“Just like the golf tournament, there are all sorts of things at the festival that involve the logistics of setup,” she said. “And in both situations, we’re always looking for good volunteers to make it all happen.”
While Parsons sees an overlap of her volunteer duties at golf tournaments and at the folk festival, she discovered an added awareness stemming from her involvement with the equestrian program that benefits many others.
“Some of my experiences have transferred in ways that I didn’t anticipate, such as looking at accessibility issues,” she said. “Obviously, that has to happen with the therapeutic horseback riding, but I also began looking to see if the golf course and the folk festival were accessible to everyone.”
One of the things Parsons has enjoyed the most about the Founders Cup tournament has been meeting many of the Tour’s founding members. She has listened to the stories and memories of LPGA Founders Shirley Spork, Louise Suggs and Marilynn Smith – once enjoying a birthday meal with Smith at a local Italian restaurant.
She also has met former LPGA Tour player Renee Powell, who was the Tour’s second African-American player and is now highly regarded as an instructor.
“I love the positive vibe of this tournament and the way the founders are honored,” Parsons added. “And I love seeing how present-day players appreciate those founders while having Girls Golf supported to create the future of the game.”
In fact, the nonprofit LPGA-USGA Girls Golf program is the beneficiary of the Founders Cup tournament. The program provides golf instruction to some 80,000 girls in 500 communities nationwide.
And if Parson’s name is randomly selected as the overall winning 2020 volunteer later this year, AXA XL’s $10,000 check to the volunteer’s tournament charity will go a long way to helping more girls follow the path of golf.
“I am extremely honored to be among the other volunteers who have been selected,” said Parsons. “Being a part of this tournament really has made a difference in my life. It’s a lot of work, but there’s a real satisfaction in working with other dedicated people to make something happen.”
The AXA LPGA Volunteer Award program will designate a top volunteer nominee at each of the LPGA’s tournaments. At the conclusion of the 2020 season, the name of one volunteer will be drawn in a random selection. That winning volunteer’s tournament charity will be awarded $10,000 on behalf of AXA.
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