Youth golfers take a swing at volunteering at Senior Open

August 3, 2010

By Christopher Huber

Alex Yi, a Skyline High School incoming sophomore, assembles his standard-bearer scoreboard in the golf cart shack July 30 for golfers Dan Bieber, Mark Houser and Dave Massey in the second round of the USGA Senior Open Championship. By Greg Farrar

Ashley Danforth, 18, of Sammamish, got up early with dozens of her peers July 26 – Aug. 1 to work long days at Sahalee Country Club for a rare opportunity to participate in a major golf event.

The Eastside Catholic graduate, along with her twin sister, Amanda Danforth, her brother and her father, David Danforth, volunteered with numerous other Sammamish residents as standard bearers. David Danforth coordinated the more than 50 youths who carried the score signs for each group of players.

As standard bearers, the youths were able to meet and assist some of the top senior players in the tournament. Ashley and Amanda said they signed up in fall 2009 to make sure they secured a spot in the rotation.

“I play a lot of golf … it was a good experience to be able to get inside the ropes and meet the players,” Ashley Danforth said.

Alex Yi, who plays for the Skyline High School golf team, said head coach Mike Fleming suggested he sign up to volunteer to help with the event. Alex saw it as an opportunity to meet the pros, play and watch some golf, and increase his involvement in the sport he’s come to love.“I said, ‘Why not?’” Alex said.

Some volunteers — it took about 2,800 to make the Senior Open happen — worked shifts throughout the week or for the days they were available. It was the same with the standard bearers. Some Sammamish youths were unable to attend or volunteer because they played in the WJGA state tournament earlier in the week, organizers said.

David Chen, of Inglewood Junior High, who lives in Sahalee, carried score signs for four days, he said, while Alex was able to do five days. The typical standard bearer’s day lasted up to 11 hours, depending on their respective threesome’s tee time, Ashley Danforth said.

“I think it’s worth it,” Alex said while preparing his portable scoreboard July 30.

Jack Strickland, of Eastlake High School, grew up in Sahalee, so he reveled in the idea of participating in a golf major.

“Meeting the players is probably the best,” he said.

But the plethora of autographs that covered his hat was certainly a perk, he added.

In addition to their duties and involvement as standard bearers, some local youths got to hit with Seattle-area golf hero and 2010 Senior Open fan-favorite Fred Couples.

On July 27, Ashley Danforth and Spencer Weiss, of Sammamish, participated in the Fred Couples junior clinic, where Couples demonstrated golf techniques and critiqued youth golfers. Ashley Danforth, who said she plans to play in college, received swing pointers from Couples.

“That was really awesome, because you meet Couples and get pointers,” Ashley Danforth said. “He only gave me two things, which was nice.”

She also got a photo with the Seattle native.

“I’ll probably remember that for a while,” Danforth said.

Weiss got a unique experience at the Senior Open, because he also caddied for Vinny Giles.

“It’s pretty good experience, a positive experience to remember,” Strickland said. “The senior players are more fun.”

When it was all said and done, David Danforth, who signed up years in advance to coordinate the standard bearers, seemed satisfied with the efforts of the youth volunteers. With about 30,000 others, he and his daughters watched together from the fringe as Couples and eventual winner Bernhard Langer approached the 18th green Aug. 1.

“I think it’s an incredible experience,” Amanda Danforth said. “It’s great to see all the fans. It’s been really cool, because you see these people on TV.”

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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