Have you ever wanted to go inside the ropes during a PGA Tour event and walk alongside the players as they compete for a championship? At this year’s RBC Heritage Tournament, 38 IJGA students get to do just that. IJGA student-athletes have the honor of representing IJGA at the event acting as standard bearers throughout the tournament.
In its golden fifty year history, the RBC Heritage has grown in stature, is widely considered one of the premier stops on the PGA Tour and the Harbour Town Golf Links one of the loveliest. Its unique landscape and narrow fairways represent a challenge like no other on the Tour. With a $6.7 million purse and a total attendance of more than 130,000, the Heritage represents the dream to which many IJGA students aspire.
A standard bearer is essentially a walking scoreboard…
…showing the gallery who is playing in their assigned player group and displaying their current scores relative to par. As each player finishes a hole, a walking scorer instructs the standard bearer to update the board, if necessary. The bearer then rustles through the oversized pockets of their apron finding the proper numerals and slides them into position beside the player’s name. This seemingly simple task can be challenging at times if conditions are windy or wet, with the standard behaving like a sail on a sailboat when a gust blows through. Being surrounded by twenty-five to thirty thousand golf fans can be a bit unnerving as well.
And though the standard weighs less than 10 pounds, it’s a job that requires physical endurance. A tournament volunteer’s day begins before sunrise as they arrive early to receive their player assignments and organize their gear. Once play begins, they must wait patiently until their group is ready to take the course. From the time their players tee off until they complete the final hole can be four to five hours of walking in the warm early spring sun, updating their boards quickly between holes. “It’s an amazing experience being inside the ropes with idols of mine who have put the work in and made it to the top. It shows that anything is possible with a bit of work,” said IJGA student-athlete Ronan Cowhey. “Now, hopefully, I can learn bits and pieces from different pros and put it all together to create my own path to the PGA Tour in the near future.”
But a little bit of discomfort can yield a lifetime of memories and great opportunities for learning. Getting to walk with some of the PGA’s best as well as those on the rise is an exciting experience for junior golfers, but it also serves as a living classroom on the workings of high-level competition and how players deal with its many facets. “Being a standard bearer is a unique experience, something you don’t get to do often if at all. It’s awesome being that close to the world’s best,” said IJGA student-athlete Leo Hernandez. “You can learn so much just by watching them.”
At the end of a day’s round, the players customarily thank the standard bearers, pose for photographs and autograph a special golf ball or two for them. IJGA students say that almost every player is quite friendly and courteous up and down the course, though their mood can intensify when the situation calls for it. For their part they drink it all in and hope to some day be the one signing autographs for aspiring young golfers lucky enough to be where they are now. How neat would it be to remember volunteering and playing that course as a junior and then coming back as a pro?
More IJGA student-athlete thoughts on their experience as standard bearer:
“I love being a standard bearer since you are able to walk and talk to the pros and see how the pros play. You learn a lot from just watching.” – Merlin Dohm
“It’s a great experience to see how a pro takes his time and what goes into the decision making process. It was great watching a player who was of similar build to see how he goes around on the course and how he reacts to a bad shot.” – Alex Lamarca
“My experience as a standard bearer was amazing. The opportunity to be insides the ropes with some of the best golfers in the world is a great learning experience. My favorite part is to be able to listen to the pros, hear how they communicate with their caddies along with how they handle themselves.” – Chase Phillips
“My experience as a standard bearer was really good. Everybody was really nice. The scorekeeper helped me. It was a beautiful day and I learned a lot seeing the pros play. It’s so great IJGA students have the opportunity to be standard bearers. I will definitely do it again next year.” – Fabienne van Kleef
“It was a really good experience seeing top golfers play up close. I liked the golfers’ behavior and that some stopped to sign autographs during play to show appreciation. I felt they were making it an experience for the fan as well as playing their game.” – Haruka Shintani
The International Junior Golf Academy is proud to be a part of the RBC Heritage once again as Sponsor and volunteer organizer. Click here >> to request more information about our world-class programs for aspiring junior golfers.