Editor’s note: The follow information was provided by Kevin Doyle, GCSAA field staff representative for the Northeast region, who is volunteering at this week’s U.S. Women’s Open.
Pulling off an event on the scale of the U.S. Women’s Open takes an amazing amount of effort, and experience doesn’t hurt. Sebonack’s superintendent Garret Bodington and others on his staff have experience under their belts, and a great understanding of the necessary resources to create a memorable tournament.
One of the most important resources is people. Bodington was the key to organizing the volunteer staff for the 2002 U.S. Open, so he was well aware of the amount of work it would take for this event. As superintendents know all too well, you have to pick the right person for the job, and experience matters. So Bodington reached into his past to a person who, in recent history, helped organize two U.S. Opens, and one Barclay’s — Dave Catalano.
The two men have a history dating back to Bodington’s time at Bethpage, which as it turns out, is merely a fraction of Catalano’s state park experience. Catalano began working with the New York State Parks department in June 1967 as a temporary seasonal employee. His success with the department eventually led to working on staff for the Blue Course, Yellow Course, and in 1975 he attained a position (now considered a superintendent) on the Green Course. After further achieving two park superintendent positions, he began his tenure in administration with responsibilities that included all Long Island state parks in 1982. From 1995 until 2011, Catalano was director of Bethpage State Park (for both the ‘02 and ‘09 Opens) and stayed on after his retirement to help administration with The Barclays.
Bodington “was nice enough to attend my retirement dinner, and asked me if I would consider coming out (to Sebonack) and helping him with the Women’s Open, which I gladly agreed to do,” Catalano says. He was tasked to coordinate the volunteers, and help with sponsor opportunities. He used several channels, including the Long Island GCSA communication tools, to reach out to perspective volunteers. He developed a form to gather all the pertinent information, and kicked his administrative background into high gear. Strong communication was the key. The response turned out to be just under 100 volunteers, many from neighboring courses such as Shinnecock Hills, National Golf Links and South Hampton, but even from as far away as Australia. With regards to all the work necessary to organize such a work force, Catalano simply replies, “If I never see another Excel spreadsheet, it won’t be soon enough.”
Sponsorship was used to provide clothing, food and housing for the volunteers. A variety of levels were established — Birdie, Eagle and Double Eagle — and John Deere signed on as the event’s title sponsor, all combining to provide the funds that helped with those items. Housing especially was at a premium in the town of Southampton, so an agreement was reached to utilize nearby Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus dormitories. With reference to all the sponsors Catalano states bluntly, “Without them, all of this couldn’t happen.” Catalano and Bodington took sponsorship very seriously, and both have spoken highly of the sponsor’s role all week. Banners also adorn the shop walls noting thanks to those sponsors who stepped up.
Catalano recommends that facilities undertaking an event of this magnitude look outside of the staff, or bring in temporary help, because “someone needs to pay attention.” His explanation was simple: “If you’ve got a guy who is an extraordinarily talented turf guy, I’d rather have him watching the turf than sending emails.” Catalano estimates 800 to 1000 hours of his time went into his work, but “a younger person could do it much quicker” he joked. Clearly all his time, commitment, and above all experience, played a critical role in generating additional staff. And that staff continues to gain high praise for great conditions at the 2013 U.S. Woman’s Open.