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A Motor Home Rally Becomes a Life Experience

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TBUTLER

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I am still trying to put recent events in perspective. We attended a rally in Prattville, Alabama, recently. The rally was sponsored by Monaco RV, a subsidiary of Navistar. The focus of the rally was the Navistar/Monaco LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) Tournament at Capitol Hill in Prattville.

We arrived on Wednesday, the 6th of October and set up "camp" with our friends Bill and Laura. Over 100 motor homes were parked at the entrance to the golf course during the event. Thursday morning we caught the shuttle to the course, walking distance from our coaches, but if you are going to walk a golf course, saving a few steps really helps. As we waited for the shuttle a volunteer visited with us asking us questions and we in turn asked him questions. It turns out they were still in need of volunteers.

So, being spontaneous, we volunteered to help with the tournament. Twenty minutes later, we, Louise and I, were standing on the 9th green with our signs to silence the audience. Our friend, Bill, was on the 7th tee. We were marshals for the duration of the tournament.

Soon the first of the ladies were hitting onto the green. As a rank amateur at golf, I was amazed to see the balls clustered around the flag. These ladies definitely were expert golfers. By noon I was pulled off the 9th green and sent to the twelfth tee. I had a chance to see the ladies hit their tee shots. Being the sole marshal on the tee box gave me a chance to talk with the ladies, occasionally. My day ended when the last of the players had cleared the 12th tee. Louise on the 9th green was still working. There were two starting flights that would conclude at the 9th and 18th tees about the same time. Louise got an early release from her position, as the supervisor took over sole responsibility for the green for the last few groups of the day.

The next morning, Friday, started at 6:30 a.m. I got to watch the last group from the previous day putt out on the 9th green before we started the next round of the tournament. Today I would be on the 9th tee. All day, through the entire group of 160 ladies, I watched them tee off. The leader in the tournament was 7 strokes under par after the first day. Today, she would add an additional 5 strokes to finish at 12 under par after 36 holes. I would leave the 9th tee at 6:30 p.m. Louise had spent the day with a friend. She made up a plate of food for me from the buffet at the rally.

After two days, the number of golfers is cut in half. To make the cut in this tournament, ladies had to be two under par! Those who were one under or at par or above were sent home! So now the field was smaller. Our day would be shorter. On Saturday we started at 8:00 a.m. and finished about 3:00 p.m. Louise took over the 9th tee while I was a spotter on the 9th hole.

Stationed on a knoll overlooking the bend in the dog leg ninth hole, I was responsible for watching the drives off the tee to see where they landed. If any balls went astray, I would help to find them. With 76 of the best players on the tee, not one went astray. Louise helped by signaling the direction of each ball as it left the tee.

As the day ended Saturday, the leader was 17 under par. Before the end of her round she was 20 under par but had several bogeys in the last three holes. Was this an indication of the direction the final day of the tournament would take? The leader was now tied for first place with another lady also at 17 under par. We enjoyed a thank-you dinner for all volunteers and headed home to our motor home, ready for a good night's rest.

Sunday morning arrived and we were again on the job at 8:00 a.m. Today I would be on the 9th green, while Louise staffed the 9th tee. In groups of two, the ladies put their approach shots onto the green and then putted out. There were excellent shots onto the green and the occasional stray shot. The leaders were in the final groups and the excitement and crowds built with each passing group.

The leader came to the green. After going -7, -5 and -5 in previous days, she now was even par after eight holes. Her approach shot put her quite a distance from the cup. A long putt put her closer but here was still a 7-foot putt to be made to par the hole -- it missed by just a few inches. One more hit and she was in the hole but 1 over par for the day!

She finished the day at 17 under par, the same as she started the day. One lady was 18 under par and the winner finished at 19 under par after making a birdie on the 17 hole. Katherine Hull from Australia would claim the $193,xxx prize for first place and we were there to see it all.

By the end of the tournament we were completely exhausted. We never dreamed we would be able to watch the tournament from such an intimate viewpoint. This was a bucket list experience that we didn't even imagine we could do! We had watched the best women golfers in the world play golf. There were ladies from five continents in the tournament. If you love golf and have a chance to visit an LPGA tournament, go, you won't be disappointed.

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