BY BRAD ZIEMER
KELOWNA — The players are the stars of the show at the GolfBC Championship, but it takes a huge supporting cast to ensure that the Mackenzie Tour-PGA Tour Canada event runs smoothly.
This year’s tournament at Gallagher’s Canyon Golf & Country Club has an army of green-shirted volunteers that numbers about 325. Their general, so to speak, is Gayle Henry, who most certainly does not ask her soldiers to salute her. After all, the majority of them are her friends and neighbours.
Henry, like about 75 per cent of the GolfBC Championship volunteers, is a Gallagher’s Canyon resident. She served as a tournament volunteer at the inaugural GolfBC Championship in 2016 and then was persuaded to become volunteer chair the next year.
“The first year I ran the pro-am and did central scoring and in the second year I took over the role as volunteer chair,” Henry says. “This is my second year, so it is a little easier this year.”
Easy is probably not the best word to describe Henry’s job. It’s up to her to ensure everything is running smoothly and that means her job starts long before the players arrive.
“I started this year in December organizing people with sign-up sheets and then in January we started with recruitment and that is probably the biggest part,” she says. “After that it is scheduling and making sure everyone shows up for their shifts and kind of just monitoring everybody. I have a real good team of leaders that help out in all areas.”
Her team of volunteers includes her husband Dwayne, who this year is caddying for Brett Coletta, an Australian who started Saturday’s third round just three shots out of the lead.
Her most famous volunteer is probably Tony Parsons, the former longtime Global TV news anchor whose dulcet tones could be heard introducing the players on the first tee during Saturday’s third round.
Henry says she has no trouble managing all the different personalties of her volunteer team.
“That is the easy part,” she says. “I was a banker all my life, so I know how to massage different relationships or personalities.
“In most cases I recommend they sign up early because certain jobs are popular. The walking scorer is always very popular because they are inside the ropes. We usually make everybody happy if we can.”
No one appreciates the work of Henry and her volunteer team more than tournament director High Vassos.
“We are very fortunate to have Gayle Henry,” Vassos said. “She is a very well-organized person and you can sure tell that her leadership skills are shining through here, especially in times like we are going through right now with these rainy conditions. We are very fortunate to have her as volunteer chair.”
When it is suggested to Henry that she probably works from dawn to dusk during tournament week, she laughs and says, “oh yeah, maybe a little longer than that. I am an early riser, I am probably up around 4 and I usually run until 10 or 11 at night during tournament week.”
Volunteers serve a variety of roles at the GolfBC Championship. In addition to marshals, scorers and caddies, volunteers also fill several positions in player services. And then there are volunteers who look after the volunteers.
“We have a volunteers services area which is really important in helping feed all these volunteers,” Henry says. “There is a lot of work behind the scenes to organize what has to be here each day for that. Player services looks after shuttling players, we have transportation vans going back and forth from the airport and hotels and I have a great leadership team. They really run with it and I don’t have to worry about them too much.”
Henry says all the GolfBC Championship volunteers are doing it for the right reasons.
“Gallagher’s Canyon is a golf community so people really embrace golfing and a lot of them are billeting players and that’s really nice,” she says. “And these young players are just fantastic. They are very polite, they are happy to be here, they are appreciative of all the volunteers. They are a really nice group of guys.”
Saturday night, the volunteers were scheduled to have a little party of their own.
“We like to appreciate our volunteers, so we are going to have a barbecue and just kick back and celebrate what we have been able to accomplish,” says Henry, who will back to do it again next year.
“I told them one more year for sure,” Henry says. “I really enjoy it. It is a lot of fun and I’ve got to meet some great people. I retired early, so it’s nice to have something to do.”
Mackenzie Tour president Jeff Monday also praised the work of Henry and her team.
“The GolfBC Championship has grown over the past three years, which is in large part a testament to the level of passion and dedication of volunteer chair, Gayle Henry and the team of volunteers that make this such a special event for the community and our players each year,” Monday said.