ACC volunteers keep coming back |

ACC volunteers keep coming back

Ryan Buchan / Tribune intern

For all 20 years of the American Century Championship, either Helen Little or Linda Wysong has been on the course volunteering. Both women have missed only one or two tournaments.

“I love working with the volunteers,” said Kathi Woodman of Sacramento. “My husband and I work in the volunteer tent, and we really enjoy meeting the volunteers because they are the real celebrities. You meet people from all different backgrounds; they come from all walks of life, all different areas.”

If you have been to the tournament, you have probably seen Little on hole two, where she has been stationed every year.

“We came out (the tournament’s second year) and (my friend and I) were so excited,” said Little of Union City, Calif. “It was not much daylight out yet and they said, ‘All my goodness, they are teeing off.’ They said to my friend and me, ‘You go to three and you to two right now, hurry, hurry.’ So, we ran, but we have never been on the course, so we ran up in the trees. We ran the whole course. We were up in the trees and we were thinking a bear would get us. There wasn’t a soul on the course at that time.”

After Little’s first year, tournament officials made her the hole two captain. She spends her days helping direct guests, answering questions, distributing Band-Aids and protecting the geese that enjoy hanging out on the fairway.

“I would cry if they killed a goose,” Little said. “I am sure they have been injured. I have seen them hobbling after days they have not had somebody here to shoo them.”

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When the celebrities are teeing off, Little aggressively restrains people from walking across the path that stretches across the fairway.

“She is a go-getter, she works hard, she makes herself known, she is a force,” Woodman said.

“She is so feisty for someone who is so small,” said Wysong, who is from the South Shore. “For her wanting to be a hole captain every year, it just amazes me.”

Little has spent most of her life in the Bay Area, but once she came to the lake in 1945 for her honeymoon, she said she wanted to live here. In 1959, she and her husband found a cabin in Tahoe Paradise, and she has been coming up for the summer every year.

“I love Tahoe, I love coming to Tahoe, just like being able to see the people and be of help,” Little said. “I love the beauty.”

Little also said she likes watching the players interact at the tournament.

“There is great camaraderie between the players, so it is kind of fun to eavesdrop on them because they get hysterical and laugh,” Little said. “I like the camaraderie of all those people. …

“(Charles Barkley) tells me every year when I am keeping people, when I am holding people back and he has a ball in bad place, he will go ahead and hit it and look up, and I am holding the people back, and he will say to me, ‘Let my people go.’ Now I will let somebody else go over there and let him tell them.”

In the volunteer tent is Wysong, who is working behind the scenes. She was at the tournament from the beginning but missed a year when her kids were little. She started as a marshal but has been moved to become the co-chair of marshals, where she helps write the schedule for the volunteers.

Wysong said she worked a senior tournament before the American Century Classic started, enjoyed the experience and was excited to work another tournament.

She said her favorite moment is when her son was little and hanging out on the course.

“When my son (Andrew) was younger, he had been working on the driving range and he was a real avid golfer. Marcus Allen kind of befriended him and let him walk the course with him,” Wysong said. “When he was done at the end of the day, Marcus was up in the clubhouse and called my son over and said, ‘Andrew and (his friend) Hunter, come on up,’ and they invited the two boys to come up, and they got to sit around with Charles Barkley and a lot of their idols. For me, that was exciting to see my son to experience that.”

Volunteers for the tournament make little or no money, and Little said she had to pay for her uniform. But neither Little or Wysong mind.

“Our pay is just being able to be on the golf course,” Wysong said. “Seeing these people year after year. (In) 20 years, we have all aged a lot. It is amazing to think when I started, I was in my 30s, and now I am in my 50s. … We work together every year, and it is the only time I see them is at this golf tournament because they live out of town. I always think I don’t want to do this, I don’t have time, but I do because of the people I work with and the volunteers that come year after year. I get to see these people every year, and if I stopped, I would never see them again.”