Some volunteer at professional golf tournaments because they are amateur golfers and hope to learn a few new skills from the best in the game.
Some just can’t get enough golf and covet those volunteer roles that place them alongside the pros walking down fairways or quieting galleries around tee boxes and greens.
Volunteer Karen Rose is unique. She doesn’t play golf and she can’t rattle off a list of players she has faithfully followed, but Rose is returning to this year’s Marathon LPGA Classic presented by Dana for her 16th year.
And while she appreciates the competition and has become acquainted with a number of LPGA players over the years, what excites the native of Findlay, Ohio, the most is what the tournament has brought to the small Toledo suburb of Sylvania, Ohio, since the tournament began there in 1984.
“We have 25 local charities this year,” said Rose, who now resides in Perrysburg, Ohio, and serves as the tournament’s player and volunteer chairman, a role she has held since 2017.
“The charities cover a spectrum of different needs in our community and for me, it’s all about indirectly making someone’s life better,” she added. “I think that happens a lot with the children’s charities we’re supporting and through the tournament, I feel like we’re more connected to the community.”
Rose began volunteering at the event in 2004, first as a marshal, then as a hole captain, and later as the player and volunteer services chairperson. She was named as the volunteer tournament chairman in 2017 – the highest volunteer level for a committee leader each year.
For her steady tenure, she has been recognized for her service as the winning volunteer at the Marathon LPGA Classic. Rose joins the nominated volunteers from each LPGA tournament who are now in the running for the overall AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award. The award will be presented at the end of the season.
“The tournament owes a great deal to Karen’s unwavering commitment, not only to the LPGA and the Marathon Classic, but also to the charities that we serve,” said Jim Heller, volunteer tournament chairman for the Marathon LPGA Classic. “She is a model for all of us.”
Heller said Rose has emerged as a leader in a corps of 1,100 volunteers at the event, and her dedication to serving each year has helped the event raise around $12 million for local charities since the tournament began.
“When it comes to Karen, there is no job too great or too small, and there is no detail, from large to minute, that Karen doesn’t know how to handle,” said Heller. “What she does is inspire other volunteers, and that’s like gold when it comes to the tournament.”
Rose’s attention to detail, no doubt, carries over from her work as a senior analyst in the human resources department at The Andersons, Inc., a North American agricultural company based in Maumee, Ohio, with offices in Canada and England.
Creating spreadsheets with volunteer schedules, sending numerous emails to the large team of volunteers and using technology to host online volunteer meetings comes second nature to Rose, whose full-time job is working in an international company with 2,400 employees.
Rose also volunteers her time to work in her church’s flower garden and throughout her years of working at the LPGA’s Ohio tournament, she has also volunteered for some of the charities that benefit from the event. She even logged volunteer duty at last week’s LPGA Drive On Championship at Inverness Club in Toledo.
But her first year of volunteering at the Marathon LPGA Classic came in 2004, when her daughter Marissa needed service hours in the eighth grade. Rather than just dropping her daughter off at the curb at Highland Meadows Golf Club, Rose decided to volunteer too. She had such a good experience that she, Marissa and her husband Bill Rose signed up to volunteer in 2005.
“Bill is a hole captain and Marissa volunteered from 2004-2007 as a marshal and as a standard bearer,” said Rose, who also volunteered at the 2011 U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club.
Tragically, Marissa died in a car accident in 2007 as a high school junior. And while it would have been easier for her mother to not return in 2008, Rose saw it as an opportunity to continue involvement in the community in her daughter’s name though the Marissa Rose Memorial Scholarship.
“The tournament made a small donation to the scholarship fund that we set up in her memory and that really touched my heart,” Rose said.
The Rose family established three different annual scholarships in their community. One is for an outstanding high school graduating senior. Another is for an individual in the Toledo Youth Orchestra because of Marissa’s musical involvement, and the third is for an individual who participates in the Bowling Green Skating Club because Marissa was an ice figure skater.
“We are helping someone get to college, and some others to get additional music lessons or skating instruction to help make them better, all in Marissa’s name,” Rose said.
And while Rose doesn’t have photos from their volunteer years together at the tournament, she still has a vivid memory of her daughter volunteering on top of a hill on the course’s 11th hole one year. She can also still envision Marissa carrying the scoring signs as a standard bearer on many hot summer days.
“In a way, she’s still with me at the tournament every year,” Rose said.
In addition to the four priceless years she spent volunteering with her daughter, there have been many memorable moments for Rose with other tournament volunteers at the event. One year, it was so hot they brought in a small wading pool in which volunteers could kick off their shoes and socks and cool down.
Another year, the creek running through the course overflowed after intense summer storms and dumped water everywhere. Rose and her volunteers had to build temporary bridges to get players and fans around the course during tournament week. She recalls several local residents paddling through the course’s swollen creeks in kayaks that year.
“It was wet and muddy and was a very interesting tournament,” she said.
Of course, the 2020 tournament will have its own interesting twist with precautions taken during the current global pandemic. Volunteers will wear masks and social distance from players and each other. Players will register online and stay in local hotels, rather than in private host housing. And there will be no spectators admitted to the event.
But while it will be different than any of her of her other 15 years as a tournament volunteer, the event must go on, Rose said.
“It will be really different without the spectators there, but players still have to eat and they still have to get to the course and we still have a lot of things to do,” she added. “This year, the focus really has to be on safety for the players, as well as for the volunteers.”
Rose admits she was surprised to be honored as the tournament’s nominated volunteer for the AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award. And while she added that she is “honored and humbled” by the accolade, she noted that she doesn’t operate without the help of many others.
“There are a lot of folks I rely on to do their jobs, so this is really a reflection of all the volunteers who work on the committees I work on,” added Rose, who will serve as volunteer ambassador chair for the 2021 Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club.
“It’s really about helping the charities, presenting checks to the charities, hearing how they plan to use the money and hearing how grateful they are to get the assistance,” she added.
And if Rose’s name is randomly selected as the season winning volunteer later this year, she has already calculated that each of the tournament’s 25 charities will at least get $400, in addition to what they will be awarded following the 2020 Marathon LPGA Classic.
“This tournament is not just about the golf,” said Rose. “It’s about making a great deal of difference for many people.”
And for the Rose family, it’s about sharing the legacy of their daughter, who also volunteered her time and forever gave her parents a lasting link with their community.
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