The Players volunteers ready for big challenge

TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse (AP photo)

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – One of the components that powers The Players is the massive volunteer force that turns out each year. And every year, there is a new Volunteer Chairman who oversees the other Red Coats on the volunteer committee and the thousands of volunteers underneath them. This year, Troy Smith is the Volunteer Chairman.

He has been on the committee for 11 years, but he had the task of having to do something that no other volunteer chairman has had to do since the tournament came to Ponte Vedra. He basically had to start from scratch to figure out how to run the tournament under completely different conditions than in the past. To say the least, it was a tall order.

“It’s completely different,” Smith said. “We have a system rolling that we’ve developed over the years that works Great. And you know, as long as the wheels not broke, just enhance it make it a better experience. But you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. This year, we had to start over with everything from our coordination to volunteers shifts. In what our expected needs were for volunteers. But as you mentioned, safety and health of everyone involved, whether it be the fans, the volunteers, or the players, is it’s going to remain our number one priority this year. ”

The biggest new aspect is the need for specific health and safety guidelines--and as we’ve been telling you--they boiled it down to a simple formula this year.

“We’ve developed safety and health protocols so that we can present the tournament in a safe, responsible manner,” Smith said. “And we’ve been working with CDC guidelines and local health officials to develop those. Mainly, we’re pushing the three W’s which is, wear a mask, watch your distance, and wash your hands.”

The challenges of planning for a tournament during the pandemic--and the uncertainty of what the conditions would be when this week arrived created some long hours for Smith and his committee.

“Normally we’d meet once a month with staff leading up to the tournament, as we get closer to the tournament we meet every weekend. Those meetings usually last an hour,” Smith said “This year, they’re lasting between four and five hours every time we meet. So there’s a lot of things we’re planning for making sure we’ve got all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed.”

In his previous 10 years, Smith served in a number of capacities, but this year, it was like learning a whole new job.

“My volunteer leadership team and I’ve been meeting with staff continuously to develop a plan and process to present this tournament in a safe responsible manner,” Smith said. “We’re confident in our plan.”