Do you love watching golf? Enjoy being outdoors? Like to help people?
Then you might want to block your schedule for July 24-30, 2023. Those are the dates of next year’s 3M Open at the TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, Minnesota and the tournament is always looking for passionate volunteers. Over 1500, to be exact.
Volunteers like Rahul Rajan, who is this year’s Chair of the Fan Experience Committee at the event.
Born and raised in India, Rajan says he never even got to watch golf on TV before he came to the United States in 2015, where he pursued his Master’s Degree in Sport Management at Easter Michigan University. However, once he started watching golf, and then eventually playing the sport, he says he was hooked.
“I wouldn’t call myself a golfer, but I play golf,” he joked. “I play golf for fun. It’s great.”
While living in Michigan, Rajan had the opportunity to attend the Rocket Mortgage Classic and watch the professionals up close and personal. At the time, he was in school and interning with different sports properties. He thought it would be fun to be involved in golf in some way.
After graduating, Rajan accepted a position at the University of Minnesota, where he is the facilities and risk management coordinator, and decided to explore opportunities within the local golf scene as well. Remembering his experience at the Rocket Mortgage Classic and all of the volunteers he had seen on the course, he signed up to volunteer at the 3M Open in 2019, the first year that the tournament became a PGA Tour event.
“I love golf. That was the main reason,” he says. “But I was also already working in sports and thought this would be a great opportunity to learn.”
Rajan got in as an ambassador his first year. Ambassadors serve as the greeters of the tournament and handout tournament programs and pairings guides. They provide directions, answer questions, and tournament information to spectators at the main entrance and various locations throughout the course.
For an extrovert like Rajan, this was the perfect opportunity. Last year, he transitioned to practice facilities, where he worked on the driving range, putting green and practice area, as well as the surrounding spectator areas. Volunteers are responsible for setting up nameplates, providing players with golf balls and any other general assistance. They marshal the practice facility area as well as allow properly credentialed people in the area.
With his love for golf, this was another amazing opportunity for Rajan to see some of the game’s best players up close and personal.
However, he wanted to keep learning more and expanding on his experience, so he says that this year, he reached out to one of the 3M Open staff members and told them that he would love to be more involved in any way possible.
“This year, they gave me the position of chair for fan experience and one of the marshal duties. It’s been great. I want to learn first and eventually, I would love to work in golf. I already work in sports, so I think this could be a natural transition. These experiences have all been super cool,” he said.
The description on the 3M Open’s website for Fan Experience says “Help out in Fan Village or other areas around the course to help us exceed our guest's expectations and ensure they have a great experience!” Again, an opportunity tailor-made for someone like Rajan who enjoys meeting and helping people.
“As far as volunteering, I would say it’s the people. I love to go and meet people and volunteering is the best way to do it. It’s been great. We have close to 1500 volunteers. I don’t work with everybody, but I try to help out anyone in any way possible. It’s also great to interact with fans and I think that’s why they put me as the chair for fan experience. I love interacting with fans and helping people out,” he said.
From the opportunities Rajan described to hospitality, standard bearers, safety, hole marshals, communications are more, there are many opportunities to get involved.
“I think when people watch golf on TV, they only think of the players and the commentators, but there is so much going on behind the scenes,” Rajan said. “We have 25-30 committees spanning over 1500 volunteers. At each hole alone, we have marshals, spotters and ShotLink staff.”
ShotLink staff, or the Location Operators position, is vital to the PGA TOUR and their ShotLink system. Current golf knowledge and technology skills are crucial. Volunteers are stationed along each green and fairway to plot player's shots using an electronic tablet provided and issued a radio and headset for constant voice communication with the ShotLink Staff.
“People who are really into golf may be interested in ShotLink,” Rajan explained. “They have to track where the ball goes, reporting back the information that people see on TV. But even if someone is not that into golf and just wants to interact with others, of course fan experience is an awesome thing. There are so many opportunities. Even simple things that people don’t think about, such as on-course distribution, where people go all around the course and make sure the players have water. Again, there is just so much going on behind the scenes at a tournament.”
With a small full-time staff of just 10-15 individuals, volunteers are vital to the tournament’s success.
“It’s great teamwork. People don’t see it all on TV, but there are so many opportunities for every skill level. You don’t have to be great at golf to work in golf and I think if people just want to spend time watching golf and having fun in a week and helping people, volunteering is a great way to get involved,” Rajan said.
Volunteering can also be considered a charitable act, he noted. The 3M Open Fund, based in Minnesota, is a non-profit 501(c)3 foundation created when the tournament was founded by 3M and the PGA TOUR in 2019. The 3M Open serves as the principal fundraiser for the organization’s efforts to support local and regional charitable organizations. The foundation’s mission aligns with 3M’s commitment to improve lives in communities where we live, work and learn.
”The 3M Open does a lot for charity, so volunteering is kind of like giving back to golf as a sport and to society, so I think it’s a great opportunity for people who want to watch golf, have fun and contribute something to society,” he reiterated.
Rajan noted that volunteer signup typically starts in toward the end of the year and the window is kept open for a few months. People who sign up tend to get 3-4 options of things they might like to do. Then, in April, volunteers are assigned to different groups. In June, they start connecting with their hole captains and committee chairs. Then early July is uniform distribution, training, and of course the tournament.
Volunteers are not required to work every day, just a minimum of three shifts during the week; however, Rajan says, many choose to work much more than that.
“You don’t have to work all day, but some people love to do it. During rain delays and stuff like that, sometimes people end up working 12-13 hours in a day, but they love it. They don't do it for the sake of doing it and they’re not getting paid, but it’s just so much fun.”
Although volunteers must purchase their own uniform package, which includes a polo, quarter zip, cap or visor and drawstring backpack, they do receive access to the grounds each day of the tournament, meaning they can enjoy watching the golf when they are not working. They also receive free parking and meal vouchers during their shifts.
“I think all the volunteers love the swag and it’s another perk of volunteering,” Rajan said.
While new volunteers sign up each year, many like Rajan enjoy it so much that they return year after year. Some volunteers at the 3M Open have been there for decades, having started when the tournament was a PGA Tour Champions event (1993-2018).
“I have seen people who have been working on the same hole for 10-15 years. I have seen volunteers who have been with us for like 30 years, but many new volunteers as well. It’s a big spectrum. A lot of volunteers. They’ve just given so much time and effort into it. And this is their Super Bowl. I think it’s great. It’s awesome,” he reiterated.
Rajan’s passion for his role and the sport is evident and inspiring. If you’re interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at next year’s 3M Open, please visit 3mopen.com/volunteer.