Keeping score: Volunteers work behind the scenes at RBC Heritage
One of the most familiar behind-the-scenes faces at the RBC Heritage hopes she doesn’t get noticed.
“It’s best to be invisible,” Cheryl Pearce said last week at the 49th annual PGA Tour event at Harbour Town Golf Links.
Pearce is head of the ShotLink walking scorers committee. She has volunteered at the Heritage now for 26 years.
Members of the walking scorers group go “behind the ropes” with the players, keeping score.
Pearce said being unobtrusive is all part of the job.
Another cardinal rule — it’s even in the walking scorers manual — is that you don’t speak to the players unless spoken to first. That rule gave Pearce a few shaky moments one year.
Each pairing of golfers has a walking scorer and a standard bearer. The bearer carries a sign with the players’ names and scores, held so the public can see.
Standard bearers are frequently students, and in years past they came from area middle schools.
Pearce was scoring for pro Ernie Els one year with a young student as standard bearer.
The scorer teams are supposed to stay out of the way and out of the fairway. This student had a mind of his own, Pearce said.
“He walked right out in the fairway and starting talking to Els,” Pearce said.
Pearce said despite her telling him, “You are not to do that,” he did it two more times.
“I was a basket case,” Pearce said. “He was my responsibility.”
When Pearce got a chance, she apologized to Els’ caddy, who quickly calmed her fears.
“He said, ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, Ernie loves kids,’” Pearce said.
Els became a favorite player of Pearce’s from that day on, she said.
“That would not have been the response of some players,” Pearce said.
‘Like a standardized test’
Early on in Pearce’s work as a volunteer, she scored for pro David Frost when he broke the course record.
In those years, scoring was done with paper and a pencil. The pages were 8.5-by-11 inches and had nine tear strips each.
“It was like a standardized test,” Pearce said. “You colored in each block with a pencil.”
Scorers had to color in boxes, not only for the number of strokes, but also for the placements of a player’s shots.
Pearce had a couple of nervous moments in making sure she had her scoring correct when Frost broke the record.
“The pencil would go through the paper,” she said.
Sheila Buck is another longtime veteran of working the Heritage.
Buck is the vice chair of the walking scorers committee and has been a volunteer for 18 years. She also remembers the days of paper scoring.
One of Buck’s memories from the tournament involves five-time champion Davis Love III and rain.
“In 2000 I was scoring Davis Love on his birthday,” Buck said. “He had a three- or four-shot lead.”
Buck said as they came to No.17 the wind started, and by No. 18 a terrible storm let loose. The scorers wore thin and noisy ponchos then, she said.
“The paper (scoring) was tearing — you have to keep it dry, too,” Buck said.
“Davis hit into the sound several times,” Buck said.
The hits into the water cost Love his lead and had to have damaged his mood, she said.
“As he came to the green, people started singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him,” Buck said. “I think he was mortified.”
If so, Love showed he was a class act.
“He was such a gentleman,” Buck said.
Changes for the better
Coloring in boxes and keeping tear strips dry has now been replaced by technology.
Scorers carry ShotLink handheld Windows-based phones to relay scoring information and wear headsets to communicate with the ShotLink truck.
Instead of coloring in boxes, the scorers tap the information into the handheld — including club type — where it makes its way on a three-second trip to the truck. It’s also put on the large scoreboard screens on the course.
Scoring is also recorded by lasers placed around the course. The laser information goes straight to the truck, where it’s compared with the scorers’ information.
“It’s approved and sent to the media, trackers,” Jeff Tuckerman with ShotLink said.
Tuckerman is one of the ShotLink staff tucked away in the truck near the 15th hole.
This whole process — from the green, to the truck, to verification — and then on to the world, takes nine seconds, Tuckerman said.
Tuckerman said more technology is coming.
ShotLink will soon start using Microsoft Surface tablets on the greens and fairways. The screen will use a grid and show the fairways and the greens to users.
They are also working on using cameras to replace the greenside lasers, he said.
“It will collect live video,” Tuckerman said. The video will not only show where the golf ball lands, but the approach, angle and speed on the green.
All that data can be used in golf course management for design and to change the characteristics of a hole, Tuckerman said.
It may eventually be used by golfers to get a better look at their play.
Buck and Pearce have seen lots of changes in scoring golf over the years, but they are an improvement, Pearce said.
“It gets better and we have more stats for the players,” Pearce said.
Pearce said she has a “pretty good job” at the tournament.
“There is a waiting list to get on this committee,” Pearce said. “We do get to go behind the ropes with the players.”
When asked if she enjoys the work, Pearce pauses.
“I guess I do, I’ve stuck with it for 26 years. Yes, I love it.”
MORE RBC HERITAGE
For more on the RBC Heritage, including an update through Saturday’s third round, turn to page 17.
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