By Nathaniel Easton, AJGA Communications
Sunriver, Oregon, is an oasis tucked in the shadows of Mount Bachelor. Sunriver Resort’s Crosswater Course is playing host to the Rolex Tournament of Champions for the third time since 2004 (2004, 2011, 2015). It would be nearly impossible for the AJGA to conduct one of the longest-running tournaments on the schedule without the efforts of Volunteer Chairman Josie Whisnant.
When Whisnant volunteered at a golf tournament for the first time over two decades ago, she had no idea she was embarking on a journey that would ultimately lead to her becoming the resident expert for volunteers at Sunriver Resort.
”I started back in 1994 just being a volunteer for golf tournaments here in Sunriver,” Whisnant said. “Within a couple of years I was all of a sudden in charge of volunteers for the Oregon Open, NCAA Championships and any event we have had here at Sunriver.”
Thanks to the work of numerous volunteers at the Rolex Tournament of Champions, the AJGA is able to update FJ Live Scoring hole-by-hole, giving friends and family around the world consistent updates.
“I have a great group of volunteers,” Whisnant said. “I depend on these volunteers. I put it out there that we have a tournament coming and they all sign up. I just call on them and let me tell you, if I need an extra day or two they step up to the plate.”
Whisnant also works for her husband, Oregon State Representative Gene Whisnant. But, some of her fondest memories center around the golf course.
“My favorite memory is of a tournament that was always on my birthday so I always celebrated my birthday with my volunteers,“ Whisnant said. “I have another volunteer who has a birthday the day after mine so we have always made it a point to celebrate our birthdays together at the tournament.”
It is difficult to grasp the time, energy and effort required to organize volunteers. The job starts months in advance and leads to a week-long sprint once the event arrives. Whisnant continues to accept the challenge. Whenever she sees a familiar face, she is reminded why she loves what she does.
“I come back because of everyone we meet and also because I have a good base of volunteers,” Whisnant said. “I also enjoy meeting all the different players. I have seen many of these players go on to the PGA, same with NCAAs. You end up just meeting a lot of people.”
Whisnant’s personality shines brightly when she is orchestrating her army. The number of people who offer their time to help Whisnant is a testament to her leadership.
“I hope that I get people to sign up because they know I treat them right,” Whisnant said. “A lot of them are CEOs, CFOs and retired teachers. They came to Sunriver to retire and enjoy themselves. I know that when they work three and four days for me they have given up whatever they normally do. I always believe that you never take a volunteer’s time for granted and you appreciate them for everything they do because you know they are working for free.”
Jeremy Freyman is the tournament director for the Rolex Tournament of Champions. With all the moving parts of a tournament, he understands how vital Whisnant’s role is during the event.
“It can be difficult to find volunteers in a resort town,” Freyman said. “She accepts the challenge and excels. She is the best in the business.”