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Meet the volunteers who worked for free from dawn to dusk to make sure the Open was a triumph

Meet the volunteers who worked for free from dawn to dusk to make sure the sporting spectacular was a triumph

Shane Lowry celebrates his Open win
Shane Lowry celebrates his Open win
Denise Hayward, CEO of Volunteer Now, who recruited hundreds of people
Ivor Bolton out on the course
Adie Wreath was in charge of the first hole
Lisa Glover’s team witnessed a hole-in-one
Kevin Streelman at The Open
Darren Clarke

By Stephanie Bell

As Northern Ireland continues to bask in the glory of The Open Championship, credit has been given to the small army of volunteers who played a huge part in its success. Thousands of people of all ages and from every corner of Northern Ireland gave up their time last week to work for free, both at the tournament and in the town of Portrush to ensure everything ran smoothly.

Thanks to ordinary members of the public, most of the 200,000-plus visitors who travelled to the event from across the world were welcomed at airports and train stations where volunteers were on duty to meet and greet fans.

On arrival in Portrush, fans were also ushered to the course by volunteers who even accompanied visitors walking to the tournament along a special pathway set up for the event.

Volunteer Now took charge of recruitment for those needed to help outside of the course, while it fell to the R&A and Royal Portrush Golf Club to organise the thousands needed to help at the course.

Volunteer Now chief executive Denise Hayward said: "We had an amazing response to our call out for volunteers and around 350 people worked during the eight days.

"Our volunteers were all fantastic and they also got a brilliant response from the public.

"We had people at all the transport hubs in Portrush, and at the railway stations and airports, to meet and greet visitors and also ensure they got to the course if they hadn't been there before.

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"Our youngest volunteer was 17 and we had people right up to their 70s helping out. They all did a brilliant job and we are very proud of them."

Andrea Lappin had the mammoth task of organising volunteers on behalf of the R&A and Royal Portrush Golf Club. The administrative officer with the R&A worked with local golf clubs that provided teams of people to serve as marshals at each of the 18 holes on the course.

In total there were 1,315 marshals who were responsible for ensuring the crowds stayed behind the ropes, the fans remained quiet and scores were kept.

Andrea says: "We actually had so many people volunteering that we had to turn some away and those who did, were so excited about doing it. Most of the work was split into two five-hour shifts. A lot of work went into organising it and there is no doubt that without the volunteers we couldn't have done it."

Three of the volunteers who put in long days during the eight day duration of the competition share their experience and the excitement of being part of an event which they all agree they will never forget.

‘It’s an experience that will always be with me for the rest of my life’

Lisa Glover (49), a health centre receptionist from Glenarm, now lives in Clonmany in Co Donegal and is a member of Ballyliffin Golf Club.

Lisa volunteered along with 70 others from her club who were in charge of the 13th hole at the tournament where there was much excitement on Thursday morning when Argentinian Emiliano Grillo scored a hole-in-one.

A very tired but still elated Lisa was resting yesterday after eight days on her feet in all weathers - and perhaps surprisingly had spent Monday watching the tournament on catch-up TV.

"Even though we were at the tournament we didn't get to see it, so I had it taped and spent the day watching it," she says.

"At one point on Saturday, I and one of my friends were sitting at the tee hole watching the action on our mobile phones.

"It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the pros up so close and watch them play."

As one of two controllers for hole 13, Lisa was responsible for a lot of pre-event organising, which included working out rotas and ordering jackets for all 70 people on her team.

Each day she also had to allocate duties.

It was hard work but thrilling and she said even the rain couldn't thwart the excitement felt by everyone.

She says: "It was fantastic to be there. The crowds and the atmosphere were amazing every day.

"All of the golfers were so pleasant, even in the rain. We had so much sunshine at the start we actually got burnt, and then we were out in gales and driving rain, but everyone was still so nice.

"Of course we had the hole-in-one which was fantastic.

"On the final day we couldn't get near the 18th hole with the crowds but the atmosphere was just fabulous. We actually watched it on the big screen in the spectators' village.

"It was an experience that will be with me for the rest of my life."

‘Many felt that it was their only chance to see Tiger play here’

Ivor Bolton (60), from Castlerock, is a semi-retired information technology trainer. Having spent some years in Malaysia, he has volunteered at a number of world class golf events and also organised marshals at the Irish Open last year.

Ivor walked the course from the third hole to the 13th as part of his duties at least 60 times during the tournament. He also ensured all his volunteers were rotated so that no one was missing any of the action by being kept in one spot for five hours at a time.

While certainly a challenge, he is thrilled that everything went according to plan.

Chatting to many fans during the event, he said many people in the crowd felt grateful to get the chance to see Tiger Woods play in particular, as there was a feeling that the former world number one would not be back here again.

Ivor says: "I spoke to quite a few members of the public and many of them had come to see Tiger Woods. The likes of Rory McIlroy and other local players have been here before and were at the Irish Open and Royal County Down not so long ago.

"People were keen to see the American players and in particular Tiger Woods and many felt it would be their only opportunity to see him play here.

"Even if The Open comes back to Northern Ireland, the chances of Tiger being there are not great because of his back problems."

For Ivor, it is "the little things" that he will remember most about The Open at Portrush.

He adds: "One of the American players, Kevin Streelman, said 'thank you for all your help this week' and we had members of the public who came down and told us that we had done a great job and thanked us for it.

"It's the simple things like that I will take away - though of course it is also amazing to see those stars hitting the ball in a way I wish I could but will never be able to do.

"I woke up on Monday morning at 5am and wondered what I was going to do with my day.

"I am 60 and if The Open comes back in seven or eight years, will I be around for it? I hope so, and will I be fit to do it? Again, I hope so. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that you don't pass up."

‘It was tremendous to see many of the world’s top players walking past you’

Adie Wreath (68) is a retired buyer for Bombardier and lives in Portstewart. A past captain of Portstewart Golf Club, he was in charge of organising volunteers from his club to marshal hole one during the tournament.

Adie was there every morning at 5.30am and wasn't leaving until after play had finished around 5.30pm.

He says: "We were allocated the first hole which involved marshalling two grandstands, the tee and the green as well as tee spotting. We had a team of 87 volunteers and we worked two shifts every day with 31 per shift each day.

"I was the controller of our group and I had a deputy and between us we organised it all. We marshalled the complete first hole from tee to green which included two grandstands, two crossing points, ball spotters, green marshals and transition from green to the next tee. In other words we controlled everything inside the rope line for the first hole.

"I was there all day along with my deputy. We both chose to be there the whole time as there really was nowhere else we would have preferred to have been.

"It was an absolutely tremendous experience to get up very close to the world's top players and see them walking past you. We were right in the heart of it.

"I was chief marshal at the Irish Open and that was amazing but this was even bigger and better, it really was as good as it gets - the infrastructure, the people and the atmosphere were something not to be missed."

Being at the first hole, Adie's team were among the first at the course each morning. It was down to them to ensure the crowds in the grandstand kept quiet at vital tee-off times and ensure walkways were kept clear for the players.

For Adie it was an unforgettable experience. "Just being very close to all these stars who are high up the world golfing ranks and who you normally only see on TV, like Tiger Woods and Tommy Fleetwood, was a really marvellous experience," he adds.

"Golfing crowds are generally very good and there were times when we had to ask them to be 'quiet please' and they usually complied. It was a great crowd and an honour to be able to be part of it.

"It's something that I will definitely never forget."

Ivor Bolton (60), from Castlerock, is a semi-retired information technology trainer. Having spent some years in Malaysia, he has volunteered at a number of world class golf events and also organised marshals at the Irish Open last year.

While no stranger to seeing world class golfers in the flesh, Ivor was nonetheless blown away by the atmosphere in Portrush.

He says: "Our club at Castlerock was in charge of providing marshals for the third hole. We had to be there around 6.45am in time for the first player teeing off and we were usually finishing around 4pm.

"Everyday we split into two five-hour shifts. I organised our volunteers for the Irish Open in Ballyliffin last year and I was asked to do it again and you don't turn down an Open Championship.

"I've had a lot of experience as I lived in Kuala Lumpur for four years and they got all the big tours. I worked at 10 or 12 of those events.

"I like helping out and The Open at Portrush was something not to be missed."

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