Many times over the past 14 months I have told friends and acquaintances that the one thing I miss the most about being an active police officer was the opportunity to work at some of our larger city events such as the ACC tournament, Fun Fourth or high school graduations at the Colesium. Many of you have observed over the years that I love to "talk" (often to a fault) and very much enjoy catching up with old friends and making new ones. I miss working with the Show Pros staff, citizens who volunteer and event organizers all of whom I have had the privilege of working with professionally during my 29 years with GPD. So when the opportunity to join the Mobile Device Task Force and work the Wyndham was offered by fellow retiree Berkley Blanks I decided to give it a try. I had always wondered how different it was walking between the ropes at a golf tournament and this was certainly the best opportunity to experience a PGA tour event from this perspective.
The Mobile Device team was a mixture of guys that had performed this task in previous years and was comprised of folks familiar with golf etiquette coupled with retired and active police officers. Our job this year became a bit "augmented" when a certain guy showed up to play that just happened to be the most famous golfer in the world. It was estimated that the city received an extra 20 million dollars or so in extra revenue due to his appearance. Given the enormity of the crowds that followed him all five days and the fact that he hit the ball very well the first three, by default we became the Tiger Woods Mobile Device Task Force. Just like that I was able to relive my GPD days of working large events and participating in crowd control. People interaction like I had not experienced since my retirement was back in my life and oh what fun I had. The average of 6 miles walking for 5 days didn't even seem to bother me; I was back in my element.
What was a bit unexpected though were the constant trips down memory lane that seemingly popped up on every hole. It began on the 7th hole on Monday while walking with Jason Gore and Kevin Harvick during the small pro am event. Play was very slow and Mr. Gore in an effort to pass the time had a short conversation with me. I told him a story about hole 7 and my golfing "heart break" shared by many GGO old timers. In 1972, this was hole 16, the one on which Arnold Palmer lost a two shot lead with three holes to play by hitting his ball into the creek and once again not winning the tournament so many of us desperately wanted him to win. This story among many is the one I will always remember most about Sedgefield. By the way this is the same Jason Gore whose putt came up just short on the last hole of the tournament in an effort to force a playoff.
In many ways my assignment allowed me to see more past friends. My job was to make announcements regarding PGA rules regarding cell phones and photography on each tee box and green BEFORE Tiger got there. I saw very few putts this week. Because I was usually moving at a fast pace to stay ahead my contacts with people I knew were fleeting, not having time to stop and really catch up. It also allowed for more chances to run across these folks because I didn't have the time to stop and chat. I spoke to folks that I had not seen in 35 years, apparently not having changed enough that they didn't recognize me. The number of Greensboro citizens that knew me from GPD who did not remember my name but did remember me from a call, a traffic assignment or wherever the job took me was almost overwhelming. High school and college friends, grown up soccer team mates of my oldest son, people I hung out with at the Greensboro "Bats" and "Hornets" games or anyone else I may have socialized extensively or even briefly all said hello while I hurried up the fairways. Grimsley High School graduates and current students, parents, teachers and administrators calling out "Officer Ridgill" who remembered me from my last work assignment as a School Resource Officer were seemingly spaced throughout the course on every single hole.
There was Mike Barber at the first tee box announcing each golfer as he teed off. Most Greensboro citizens know him as an attorney, City Councilman and as being involved with the First Tee program. I know him as a Grimsley parent and basketball referee. I have known Mike for 30 years or so and met him when he umpired adult league softball games. Attorneys, coaches, teachers from my past all now event committee chairmans working for the Wyndham. The 5th hole was home to the Jaycee Old-timers who would often bring me breakfast when I was working a traffic post near their location during my GPD years and still take good care of me to this day. Wayne Fleming still talks about the drunk driver I arrested while resting on my stool the last year I worked as an active police officer. Retirees from other parts of the world that had relocated and now volunteer during tournament week, some who would even discuss or playfully "argue" about past tournament trivia were fun to get to know. One bet me $1000 that Arnie's previously mentioned creek shot happened in the mid 60's. I didn't collect but he would laugh at me every time I walked past him for the rest of the week.
I had no clue. What began as an opportunity to simply walk with professional golfers ended as so much more; perhaps the ultimate experience in living nostalgia and the closest I could come to my life flashing before my eyes without that "death" part. What would seem to be a physically demanding week became a joyous walk down memory lane. The opportunity to reach back and touch so many great pieces of my personal history was priceless.
If you have a lifelong attachment or history to Greensboro or the area, I encourage you to give volunteering for the Wyndham a try. I hope you will find it as rewarding as I did.
To Berkley, "thanks baby".