Daniel Philippi Jr. has had a little extra incentive to volunteer each year at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
That’s because an organization that is dear to his heart and essential to his personal experience in golf directly benefits from the tournament’s annual and very important charitable donation.
Special Olympics New Jersey is one of many charities that has benefitted from more than $35 million donated regionally by the LPGA tournament, and Philippi, a Special Olympics USA Games gold medalist, is happy to do his part as a tournament volunteer.
“The tournament gets me focused on something beneficial to our region and features something I’m passionate about,” said Philippi, the gold medalist in the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games Level 4 golf competition hosted by his New Jersey home state. “If I’m going to be a part of anything, it’s going to be full force.”
And that determination to help lead the ShopRite LPGA Classic’s standard bearers volunteer team each year has provided seamless leadership for the tournament and high praise by organizers of the event.
In recognition for his service as the 2020 winning volunteer at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, Philippi will join other nominated volunteers from each LPGA tournament now in the running for the overall AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award. The award will be presented at the end of this season.
If his name is randomly selected at the conclusion of 2020, the tournament’s various charities would benefit from a $10,000 charitable donation by AXA.
“Danny is a team player and plays such an important role on the volunteer team,” said Megan Herrera, volunteer coordinator of the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“He schedules the volunteers for their shifts, communicates any changes with them, sends them out with their respective groups during the tournament and will even jump out there and carry the standard himself with a group if a volunteer is late or doesn’t show up,” added Herrera. “He sometimes will carry the standard for two rounds a day!”
Philippi originally signed up to volunteer at the tournament in 2007 when he graduated from Egg Harbor Township High School, but the LPGA’s tournament schedule changed, moving the tour’s New Jersey event to a northern part of the state. It was too far for Philippi to commute each day.
“I was disappointed, but when the tournament came back here in 2010, I signed up again and got involved with the standard bearer committee,” said Philippi, who spent most of his life in Egg Harbor Township before moving to Absecon, N.J.
And when asked why he was attracted to carrying the scoring standard boards for the tournament, in Philippi’s straight-forward and honest way, he asserted there was no other volunteer role in the event that would give him the same experience with the touring professionals.
“I thought it was the best way to enjoy a golf event, to be inside the ropes at the tournament,” he said. “I knew it would be about keeping up with the scores of each group and walking with the golfers.”
Philippi started playing golf in Special Olympics programs in 2002, and he and a partner competed in nine-hole events for nine years, usually winning the gold medals in the New Jersey team events. By 2011, he decided to try competing in the state’s individual competition and polished his skills under the watchful eye of Ray Harold, golf coach for New Jersey Special Olympics.
Philippi admittedly keeps a “golf shrine” in his bedroom with a variety of golf mementos from the ShopRite LPGA Classic, as well as from Special Olympics events. When he won the gold medal at the 2014 USA Games, a photo of himself with Harold caddying for him at the Games, was lovingly placed among his most prized possessions.
“It was a very big accomplishment to win that gold medal in the USA Games,” said Philippi, who maintains a job at a Walmart in Egg Harbor Township. “I was able to measure myself against other Special Olympics players and I felt like I belonged there.”
Philippi also proved that he belonged as a key member of the ShopRite volunteer team. He initially began assisting the standard bearer committee’s co-chairs, but soon was given his own set of responsibilities alongside co-chairs John Worley and Ann Belgio-Hutchinson.
The New Jersey native speaks with great affection for his home-state region just north of Atlantic City and says he has proudly watched the growth of the ShopRite tournament, of which he has been a part for a decade.
He remembers when the tournament’s standard bearers congregated in what he described as “an 8 x 8-foot tent behind the first tee box in a wooded area beside the concession stand” to now, as a part of a “much larger 20 x 40-foot volunteer headquarters tent.”
He also has watched the tournament’s vendor and sponsor presence grow, along with the resulting luxury boxes, patron pavilions and other amenities at the event.
“It just feels like we are experiencing growth,” Philippi said. “Also, golfers come to our region from many more different countries now, so the women’s game has also grown around the world.”
Philippi has been around the LPGA Tour long enough to understand the importance of his tournament in this year’s COVID-affected schedule. The Tour was late restarting competition during the pandemic outbreak, which pushed tournaments that weren’t canceled deep into the calendar year.
That includes the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, which has been rescheduled to take place one week after the ShopRite LPGA Classic, just down the road in Newton Square, Pa.
“It’s great that something that has been on the LPGA schedule for at least the past 10 years is going to be happening again, even though we won’t have any patrons at our tournament this year,” Philippi said. “At least eyes will be on our region and the fact that we are hosting an event that is of value to the sports calendar.”
“But what is even bigger is that the LPGA is going to play an event in New Jersey right before it plays a major championship in Pennsylvania,” he added. “If players have a good finish at our tournament, it will help them going into the next week.”
Sadly, Philippi had to make a tough decision about this year’s ShopRite LPGA Classic. It would have been his 11th year volunteering at the event, but because of the LPGA’s schedule change, the tournament will now overlap with the first week of New Jersey high school football.
Philippi has served as the statistician for the Egg Harbor Township High School football team for years. He handles the player stats, along with general team and play-by-play stats each season – a role he takes very seriously.
“I couldn’t take myself away from the team because with my stats, it helps the team get better and it also helps the high school athletes get recruited to play college football on scholarships,” Philippi explained.
Assuming the LPGA’s tournament in New Jersey will return to the summer months in 2021, Philippi vows he will return to help run the volunteer standard bearers next year.
And while he will miss this year’s competition, Philippi still thinks about the LPGA every day when he walks past the display of signed golf balls, gloves and pairing sheets in his room. It reminds him of great golf, fun times with the world’s top pros and a feeling of accomplishment from helping a tournament run successfully in his home state.
“I represent a section of the population who wants to do something, but doesn’t always know how to do it,” he said. “I’m one of those who represents how to do something, like volunteering for a professional tournament that is beneficial to our region of the country, while also fulfilling my love of women’s golf.”
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