Volunteers take event to heart

ERIC BENDER -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

Mostly, they come from nearby. But some -- Frank Mauz of Hawaii for one -- come from afar.

The volunteers at this week's Canadian Women's Open at the London Hunt and Country Club are 1,350 strong, a force that took little time to recruit.

"This is an extremely well-run tournament," said Mauz, a 61-year-old community college math teacher in Honolulu, who is volunteering at his fourth straight Canadian Open.

He's the volunteer from the greatest distance away and was accepted, along with the hundreds of London and area volunteers, because of his background and because his name is on the Internet list for the event.

"We had an LPGA event in Hawaii for 11 years and then lost the sponsor, but I was hooked," Mauz said. "I really missed it."

He worked at the Vancouver tournament in 2003, in Niagara Falls in 2004 and last year in Halifax.

He uses his air miles plan to make his flights to Canada, but this year, those points only got him as far as Las Vegas and he had to pay cash the rest of the way. He's staying at the dorms at the University of Western Ontario to be frugal.

"Canada is open to visitors in the summer because the universities open their dorms to them," he said.

Raised in Detroit, Mauz had been a frequent visitor to Canada and decided to make the Canadian Open his annual project. It helps him get an inside track on the players by being inside the ropes.

He works as a walking scorer, recording each shot for accuracy and driving distance on a couple of holes.

"We are very unofficial," Mauz said. "The players are responsible for their scores. We are mostly compiling for the statistics you see on the Internet."

By the luck of the draw, he has done rounds twice with Il-Mi Chung, a South Korean, and has developed a bond because of it.

He protests that he's not a groupie, but admits a fascination with the Korean contingent and points to the SeoulSisters.com website as one of his joys. It's because he has a lot of South Korean students in his classes.

He rates the Hunt Club as being in "tremendous shape" and predicts low scores if the wind stays down.

One amazing feat he's seen this year, Mauz said, came when Thai golfer Virada Nirapathpongporn signed her name for him on a single golf ball.

Volunteer services chairperson Donna Bourne said the volunteer roster was filled just over three months after the November announcement. It was an unprecedented volunteer recruitment, said assistant tournament director Jeff Moore. The volunteers come from seven provinces.

Bourne, who has handled volunteer services for several events in London, including the Canada Summer Games in 2001, said any last-minute volunteer additions have occurred only through normal attrition when people can't make it.

"It's always a pleasure working with volunteers because they want to be here," she said. "They are willing to do things that surprise me."

Volunteers are broken into 21 committees, the largest of which is 400 marshals. Player transportation requires 125 drivers, corporate hospitality 100 and security 100.

Bourne said the least popular job is directing in the parking lots (which needs 50 people), but she said parking personnel are critical because they are the first faces the public sees when arriving "and they set the tone."

John Kuchta, a civil engineering technologist from Lambeth, was one such tone-setter yesterday. He had never volunteered for such an event before, he said while directing vehicles.

"I kind of feel I'm an ambassador for Canada by doing this, and to London, because people come from all over the world to this," he said. He's using a week of vacation time to volunteer every day and was willing to do whatever job he was assigned.

"The biggest question is 'Where do we go' and most people are polite," Kuchta said. "There are some people not so nice because they can't park right up front or don't think they have to pay the $5 parking fee."

Kuchta's involvement stems also from his interest in golf, although he doesn't belong to a club, saying he "plays the tour."

Bev Brown, a secretary, was assigned to player hospitality after signing on as a volunteer in March. "I'm doing it for the city," said the first-time volunteer. "I get to see these players."

Brown plays in a women's league at Cobble Hills.

Sheila Cassidy, a professor at Fanshawe College, is also a first- time volunteer and is working on the corporate hospitality committee. "I like to golf and I watch the women on TV quite a lot," she said. "This is an opportunity to meet people."

Bourne said the volunteers are split almost 50-50 between men and women. Women usually outnumber men at similar sporting events, but she reasoned that because so many more men golf than women and have an appreciation of good golf, they wanted to be involved.

Volunteers paid $60 for the privilege of helping out. If it sounds like a contradiction, Bourne and Moore say they get about $100 worth of value -- a tournament golf shirt, hat, backpack, free parking, two one-day passes for friends and a volunteers' party.


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