Volunteer committee co-chair Jerry Pennington (right) is a member of the Otter Creek Junior Championship committee.
The efforts of the more than 250 volunteers who serve annually at the Otter Creek Junior Championship have been recognized with the 2016 Volunteer Award by the American Junior Golf Association.
Each year, the AJGA presents awards to the tournaments with the best individual hospitality, Junior-Am Fundraising Tournament, charitable giving and volunteer base. Awards are also given to the events with engaged media and social media participation. Finally, the AJGA recognizes the year’s most outstanding golf professional, superintendent and general manager, as well as the most improved event, best new event, best Junior Golf Hub Preview Series tournament, best ACDS Junior All-Star Series tournament, best Invitational and overall tournament of the year. Tournament awards for the 2016 season will be presented on-site at 2017 tournaments.
“Our community is very proud to host the event,” said Volunteer Chairman Eric Marvin. “We really think and plan for the event on an annual basis. Our community loves participating in the event, being around the players and AJGA staff.”
The AJGA’s footprint in Columbus, Indiana, goes back to the days of Phil Mickelson. In fact, Mickelson won the 1987 Midwestern Junior Championship at Otter Creek Golf Course en route to his second of three Rolex Junior Player of the Year awards.
“I’ve been here for three years,” said Marvin, the director of sports tourism at the Columbus Area Visitors Center. “When I first started, I was told we had tremendous community support and that finding volunteers would be easy. I was not convinced at first, but when I started looking for volunteers that year I discovered that everyone was right. The community was eager to participate in this event.”
Marvin helped the event reach new heights in volunteer participation by filling more than 100 volunteer spots per day. The committee organized a volunteer lounge with snacks and scrolling TaylorMade-adidas Golf Live Scoring, as well as a map with locations for each volunteer position. Volunteers even assisted in setting coolers out on the course and bringing them in at the end of the day.
For Marvin, it’s easy to motivate the community to support the tournament.
“The AJGA staff does a great job of seeing where the community has strengths and tying that into their operation seamlessly,” Marvin said. “We feel like an extension of the staff, but we understand each of our roles and responsibilities. That’s what makes the tournament so much fun.”
In 2016, the Otter Creek Junior Championship experienced multiple weather delays, but the volunteer base never skipped a beat. In fact, volunteers were able to man three evacuation vans to ensure the safety of parents, players and spectators.
“At the Visitor’s Center, we place it right up there with our most important events of the year,” Marvin said. “We love the national and international effect, and we love the opportunity to show off Columbus to the country and the world.”
The volunteer base will continue to play a large part in the event’s success in 2017 when the AJGA returns to Columbus for the Otter Creek Junior Championship July 3-6.