Volunteering at AJGA: "It Takes A Village"
August 30, 2021
Volunteering is a large component of all American Junior Golf Association events, the Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Sugarloaf included—in fact, the AJGA relies on over 5,000 annual volunteers to assist with tournament operations in more than 30 states; as for Sugarloaf’s end of operations, numerous team members contributed to the volunteer pool at the 2021 AJGA tournament that was hosted at Sugarloaf Golf Club last week. And as is the case with all of our large-scale events, our motto is, “It takes a village.”
Sugarloaf Head Golf Professional Zach Zondlo said it best when he acknowledged, “It’s a tremendous honor to host an event of this caliber at Sugarloaf.”
Sugarloaf’s Wedding Services Coordinator Kayla Zondlo volunteered for shuttle service on Hole 10 on Monday and Tuesday, and Hole 18 for Thursday. When reflecting on her experience, she said: “Volunteering is a blast. As a volunteer, you get to be outside all day watching some great golfers play. Depending on your station, you get to chat with them for short periods of time and really see how they are feeling or how they plan on improving for the next hole; however, no matter what position you are volunteering for, the kids always go out of their way to thank you for helping out. It makes you, as a volunteer, want to keep coming back and see how these kids end up placing.”
Kayla has been volunteering for the tournament sine 2018, and her favorite part each year is watching the kids play. “These kids have worked hard to play in this tournament and are incredible golfers.” She then acknowledges, “This is such a challenging course—most of the kids have never played a course like this. It can be extremely frustrating at times, but no matter how challenging it is, they are always calculating and thinking ahead. As someone who is not a great golfer, it really makes you appreciate the strategy of the game.”
Sales Coordinator Trent Labbe volunteered as spotter on Hole 1, a task that required tracking the players’ tee shots and helping them find their ball if it went out of bounds; he then helped shuttle players from Hole 18 back to the Clubhouse. When asked to describe his volunteer experience at the AJGA tournament, Trent says, “Fantastic. On the first day, I was greeted by friendly and organized AJGA staff members that gifted me some swag, including a polo and hat. The AJGA staff then filled me in with all the information needed to complete my volunteer needs. AJGA staff members were also checking in with all the volunteers throughout the day and keeping us hydrated on the course. It was incredible to watch and assist young, talented players from all over the world.”
This was Trent’s first time volunteering for AJGA, though, as he says, “hopefully not [his] last. It was an honor to help out and be apart of this non-profit organization throughout the week.” The AJGA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf.
- Did You Know? Many of the top golfers on the PGA and LPGA are former AJGA members, including Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Tiger Woods, Bubba Watson, and Davis Love III.
Trent’s favorite part of the tournament was talking to the players on the course. He says, “It is crazy how talented, professional, and respectful these players are at such a young age. I hope my golf game will be as good as theirs’ some day… but I’d have better odds winning the Powerball.”
Patti Cross has been a Sugarloaf since 1967, working in Perfect Turn and retail; she's been volunteering for the AJGA for the past 3 years, providing lunch deliveries and shuttle service. “My favorite part of volunteering for the AJGA is just that: volunteering,” the Redington resident says. “When shuttling, I have the opportunity to have a brief conversation with [the players]. I always ask them where they are from, and be sure to thank them for being here at Sugarloaf. I get to meet some of the parents, and everyone is so nice, and of course they comment on how beautiful the Sugarloaf Golf Course is! As a member [of the course], I beam with pride.” Patti adds: “And they always thank us—the volunteers—for taking the time to volunteer!”
As for my experience, I assisted on lunch delivery on Monday, which involved taking a golf cart out around the course to deliver midday meals to AJGA and Sugarloaf volunteers. I worked alongside Director of Retail Brumbi Grant and we divided the course in half and working out way down: she took the back nine, heading to White Candles first while I headed out towards the 8th hole, Cat-n-Nine Tail. Everyone I met while on delivery was very gracious and friendly—and hey, can you blame them? It was a beautiful day (as was the rest of the week), we were spending it on the golf course, and if they’re anything like me, they’re happy to eat lunch. It’s that same feeling as when you see your food coming in a restaurant.
I was on-site the remaining three days of the tournament taking pictures. The course is always beautiful to spend time on, but it was an entirely different experience being there to photograph the AJGA participants: in my time at the junior championship this month, I observed a lot of respect—not just between the players, but between the participants and the volunteers, the golfers and the course. Additionally, it was a really wonderful experience to document from a creative standpoint because there’s such incredible talent on display.
On the final day of the tournament, while riding back from Hole 18 with Kayla and former champion Calen Sanderson, Calen (who finished in third place at 224) said he would be leaving directly from here on a 10-hour drive back to his home state of Pennsylvania—and he wasn’t alone: participants traveled from near and far to be here. This demonstrated something that I was continually blown away by: the commitment these kids really have for the craft, their sport, and the Association.
- Fun Fact: There are 18 states and 3 different countries represented that Juniors have traveled from to participate in this tournament.
It was also really cool to see the camaraderie between the players, prevalent from the beginning—as seen the first morning of the tournament as the players, in groups of three, introduced themselves to each other at Hole One—and displayed through the very end, with Junior Championship winner Boyi (Barry) Zhang of Lake Mary, Florida and Andre Zhu of Richmond Hill, Ontario, who finished second, chatting game and strategy before the awards ceremony.
During the awards ceremony, AJGA’s Tournament Coordinator Sydney Della Flora acknowledged the importance of volunteer presence at the tournament, as did Boyi when he read an heartfelt speech he’d prepared in which he also thanked the AJGA sand Sugarloaf staff (with special shout-outs to Zach and Indiana Jones) as well as the event’s volunteers, other players in the tournament, and his family while his father proudly looked on.
And there it is, your behind-the-scenes look into volunteering at the American Junior Golf Association’s Coca-Cola Junior Championship!
Interested in getting involved? The MAXXIS ESC Enduro Box Series Showdown is coming to Sugarloaf September 12, and we are looking for a handful of course volunteers to help throughout the event with trail maintenance, injury communication, and both rider and spectator support; the shifts are relatively short and offer some of the best spectating opportunities. Bagged lunches will be provided, as well as vehicle transport to select locations on the course. You can register here to help out.