Aspiring golfer walks with the pros at the PGA Championship
By Mike Wadsworthmwadsworth@abcnews4.com
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (WCIV) - Wind gusts approaching 30 mph at the Ocean Course Friday didn't just create difficult conditions for the golfers.
17-year-old Greg Malone from Mount Pleasant scrunched his nose as he pushed against a swirling wind on the 13th hole Friday, holding a giant sign with player's names and scores.
Malone is paired with a group for 18 holes at the PGA Championship to carry that sign so fans know which golfers they are watching.
"It was like carrying a sail," said Greg Friday afternoon. "I'm pretty sure if I jumped in the air, I'd get blown 20 feet."
Standard bearers are not only in charge of carrying the sign, but they also help keep track of scores.
But despite the challenges that Friday presented, it was all worth it for Greg. He gets to walk the course with some of the world's best golfers and spend the entire week at the Ocean Course for free.
Junior volunteers, those 16 to 21-years-old, don't have to pay a dime to be at the PGA Championship. It's a pretty good gig considering those over the age of 21 must pay $217 for the same benefits.
The only catch for junior volunteers is that they have no idea what their job may be. If chosen, juniors could be working a leaderboard, passing out information sheets, or walking 18 holes right beside professional golfers.
For Greg Malone, who aspires to be a college golfer next year and plays five to six times a week to improve his game, the job he landed for this year's Championship couldn't have worked out any better.
"You kind of try to take in everything," he said about his round on Friday.
"Today a guy hits this shot, I don't know how he did it!" he said while describing a shot by Australian golfer Brendan Jones, where Jones cut the ball around a set of trees.
Malone is a three-year golfer at Palmetto Christian Academy and watches the pros at the PGA Championship with a very close eye.
"The biggest thing that stood out to me," Malone pauses. "I was watching Lee Westwood, he's probably the most famous golfer I was with, and he had the most confidence out of anyone. He would just pick how he was going to hit the shot, go up and do it," he said.
The learning experience from watching Westwood was one that Malone wasn't supposed to have.
He was assigned to two rounds at this year's event, one on Friday and one on Sunday or so he thought.
The schedule was incorrect and Malone was supposed to be heading out with a group on Thursday morning at 7:20 a.m.
He missed the Thursday morning tee-time, but luckily was at the course to watch, and was placed on the call-list in case other volunteers didn't show up.
Malone was thrilled to hear that the volunteer staff would let him choose any group he wanted to follow for the day.
"I was excited! he said. "I had trouble deciding, but I liked Lee Westwood a lot."
Malone took in 18 holes with the likes of Lee Westwood, Bill Haas, and Angel Cabrera on Thursday. The three have a combined 90 professional wins, and Angel Cabrera won the 2009 Masters.
"There's points where they're almost as close as you are to me," he said Friday. "It's cool."
Malone played football for three years at Palmetto Christian Academy, but quit this year to focus entirely on his golf game. He's taking advantage of any opportunity to learn from the pros this week.
Malone was at the Ocean Course again on Friday morning, to watch as a fan, when that opportunity came.
"I said to them, 'Hey if you need someone, call me today,'" he said. "I was at 18, so I couldn't answer the phone, and he texted me. I sprinted over there!" said Malone.
It was a battle fighting the wind on Friday, but the round created more memories that Malone will remember.
There was Brendan Jones' cut shot. Then a funny moment with club pro Bill Murchison who was more than 20 shots over-par on the tournament.
"At one point on [hole] 16, he walked over to me and said, 'It'd be nice if you took off one of those cards!" said Malone with a laugh.
He has one more round left to work on Sunday, but with Malone's fortune thus far, it wouldn't be surprising to see him on the course again Saturday.
For a 17-year-old looking to take his golf game to the next level, there's arguably no better place to be.