More than 120 children from local schools are gearing up for key voluntary roles at this month’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship – running January 17-20 at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.
Aged 15 and upwards, a small army of students from Abu Dhabi’s American Community School, Al Raha International School and Al Yasmina School form part of a 400-strong dedicated volunteer group that will get inside the Championship ropes working as marshals, stewards, walking scoreboard holders and leaderboard operators.
With the National Course field featuring golf giants including world number one Rory McIlroy, 14-time Major winner Tiger Woods, top 10 players Jason Dufner and Justin Rose, as well as reigning Open Championship holder Ernie Els, the Championship’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, Jean Iggo, revealed the volunteer programme - and interest from schoolchildren – has grown beyond recognition since being rolled out for the first tournament in 2006.
“The schools’ volunteer programme is very beneficial to both the Championship and the students,” said Jean. “A lot of students get involved for their community hours and many of them return each year of their own accord, which is fantastic to see. They share their experiences with new students and mentor them, which helps us forge a stronger team to get the job done.”
With so many volunteer jobs available, Iggo says the students thrive when entrusted with the most important tasks, such as managing the all-important leaderboards.
“The updating and co-ordination of the leaderboards is obviously a very important task for the Championship and requires a lot of organisation and skills,” said Jean. “Naturally, the board changes every few minutes so the team use handheld radios to make sure everything is correct and up-to-date. Teamwork is essential to the volunteer role and students always leave the Championship having gained valuable life experience and some with the ambition to have their name on a leaderboard in the future.”
With golf appearing on a growing number of Abu Dhabi school’s physical education curriculum, the Championship offers students a unique opportunity to experience the world’s best at close and many student volunteers take up golf full-time following the four-day stints inside the ropes.
“The Championship is my favourite event in Abu Dhabi,” said Emilio Martin de Bustamante, a student at the American Community School. “I’ve been a volunteer for the past three years. I love taking part and helping out wherever I can. Watching Tiger Woods last year was really inspiring and motivating for me to play even more.
“Also, the fact that younger players like Matteo Manassero are playing at such a high level shows us that anything is possible with the right amount of training. This year I will be carrying a score board, so I get to walk around with the players. I can’t wait!”