Tournament volunteers are the type of people who will happily work long days and give you the shirts off their backs, if needed.
But the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship’s Julia Reeves has taken volunteerism to another level – literally donating the hair off her head to benefit a charity.
That happened several years ago when the LPGA Tour’s competition in Rogers, Ark., hosted a “Locks of Love” event. Donors contributed about 8 inches of their own hair to be used to help children suffering from medical hair loss. LPGA Tour players cut the hair under supervision by professional hair stylists during the event.
“I grew my hair for the whole year to participate,” said Reeves, who serves as the tournament’s volunteer office administrator. “I actually cried when my ponytail was cut off, but it made me feel really good about doing something to help children. I think it was the highlight of all the years I have worked at this tournament.”
Reeves is in her 14th year of volunteering at the Arkansas tournament. She took a week of vacation from the printing company where she worked in 2007 and volunteered for the first time at the LPGA Tour’s golf tournament held near her home in Fayetteville, Ark.
And the rest, as they say, is history – in fact, 14 years of running errands, setting up volunteer centers and tournament offices, making coffee and stocking coolers for fellow volunteers heading out on the course to work, providing driving and parking directions for fans and players, suggesting local dining options to out-of-towners, and in some years, dealing with extraordinary amounts of rain on an oversaturated golf course.
“That first year in 2007, Stacy Lewis won unofficially because they could only play one round of golf after all the rain and flooding,” said Reeves, who spends the rest of the year working full-time in customer service for Arkansas-based A.G. Russell Knives.
“I’ve been here every year of the tournament and I absolutely love it,” she added. “I take a week of vacation to volunteer and it’s the greatest vacation ever!”
That dedication earned Reeves recognition for her service as the 2020 volunteer nominee at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship. She joins the other nominated volunteers from each LPGA tournament who are now in the running for the season winner of the AXA LPGA Volunteer Service Award. The award will be presented at the end of this season.
“Julia has been an exemplary representative and extension of the tournament staff and she is the first face LPGA players, staff and event partners see as they enter the tournament office,” said Octagon Event Manager John Post.
“Her enthusiasm and love for the event is infectious and has been for over a decade,” Post added. “Her responsibilities are expansive, but Julia’s kind-hearted, positive personality never wavers. She was an obvious choice to be selected for the AXA Volunteer Service Award.”
If her name is randomly selected at the end of the season, the tournament’s charity, the Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter, would benefit from a $10,000 charitable donation by AXA.
The charity’s mission is to provide a safe haven, high-quality care and hope for the future to children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected.
“It’s a great honor to be nominated because volunteering at this tournament is something I absolutely love to do,” said Reeves. “If my name is selected, that money would really go far in our community because so many people need help during the pandemic.”
Ironically, Reeves is not a golfer and wasn’t attracted to volunteering at the event because she is crazy about the game.
“I cannot hit a golf ball from here to my television,” she laughed. “I can’t even play Putt-Putt very well. At least I can tell you more now than the first year I volunteered, when I didn’t even know what a par-3 was.”
But for Reeves – who only gets to see the LPGA pros if they stop by the tournament office or during the awards ceremony, when volunteers are recognized – it’s not just about the golf.
“It’s about the people,” she said. “I call it the ‘reunion week’ because I get to see our other volunteers who come in from different places. We’re like one big, happy family and it’s a lot of fun.”
Reeves admits she also enjoys organizing the tournament office and arrives on the Saturday before tournament week to have things ready to go on Monday.
“I also love helping to solve issues,” said Reeves, who has two adult children and three grandchildren. “When I’m asked to do something, I try to get it done to the best of my ability and with a smile on my face.”
Reeves has volunteered in other places. When she worked for Tyson Foods, she helped run a bass-fishing tournament. She also has volunteered for The First Tee and for Champions for Kids.
When she interviewed for her current job, she was upfront about the one week of the year she wanted to spend volunteering for the LPGA tournament. She would use her vacation time, but that one week away from work was non-negotiable for Reeves.
“I told them, ‘If you don’t want to hire me, don’t hire me, but you have to know that I’m going to volunteer at this tournament,’” she said.
That kind of dedication is welcomed and needed, especially this year when the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship will be staged with precautions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, between 700-800 volunteers work at the event. Without spectators this year, fewer volunteers will be needed and the most experienced volunteers will be essential.
“I’m going to do my part 110 percent to keep the players and other volunteers safe,” Reeves added. “All of us, working together, must do everything in our power to help get rid of this virus. This year will be totally different than all the other years I have volunteered, but I’ll still do what is asked of me to make this a great tournament.”
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