Each year, over 1,000 amazing volunteers assist with the execution of the AT&T Byron Nelson. Our volunteers come from 16 states and even travel from as far as Canada. Just over 100 have volunteered with us for over 20 years! This year, 60% are returning and 40% are new volunteers. Our volunteers are selfless in their sacrifice of time. Some take vacation days and some travel across states and continents. Over 22,000 hours will be served during the week and over 6,500 meals will be served by our lovely volunteers. Even Peggy Nelson Jaros (Byron Nelson’s widow) comes each year and helps pack lunches for the volunteers. It is safe to say that without volunteers, there would be no tournament!
Our volunteers hold a special place in our hearts. With the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson fast approaching, we interviewed three outstanding volunteers, Brian and Monica Nicholas (husband and wife!), and Johnny Snell, to share some of their fondest memories of the tournament!
What has been one of your most memorable experiences whilst volunteering for the AT&T Byron Nelson?
Brian Nicholas: Across 25 years, there are so many great memories, including having the opportunity to walk with the eventual champion on a Sunday, up the 18th fairway (which I’ve been fortunate to have done three times). I think one of my favorite memories is being assigned to Standard Bearer and walking with 1995 tournament champion, Ernie Els. I want to say this was during the early 2000’s. Ernie was very relaxed as he was out of contention that year. I remained quiet as I typically do unless engaged. We were through the first hole when Ernie started engaging me in conversation, asking about my family, hobbies, etc. As I disclosed that I play golf recreationally, he began giving me golf instruction throughout his final round; even handing me his clubs to gauge my grip and stance. This was easily the BEST golf instruction I had ever received, especially coming from a player of his caliber. The Big Easy indeed.
Monica Nicholas: Of course, my husband, Brian won’t share this, so it’s up to me! In 2019 Brian was chosen as the Volunteer of the Year, which is a huge honor considering the many, many incredible volunteers we have every year. Since I joined him in volunteering eight years ago, we would tease each other about how we would react when our name was called for the big award. The Friday before the volunteer party, we were on the shuttle heading back to our cars making each other laugh out loud with our “shocked and surprised” faces. Of course, I already knew he had been selected, so it was especially hilarious to me and difficult to keep it a secret from him! Weather delays on Saturday had Brian walking with the last group of golfers and getting in late to the volunteer tent, so everyone was waiting on him to arrive. It was so incredibly special and incredibly hilarious to see his reaction when he realized it was him being described as the Volunteer of the Year, and we got it all on video! First it was shock, then he was overwhelmed with emotion, and finally just pure pride and joy as his friends and family cheered him on. Thank you to the AT&T Byron Nelson for recognizing his 25 years of dedicated service.
Johnny Snell: One of my most memorable experiences as a volunteer was not at the course but at Momentous Institute. As a volunteer we had the opportunity to tour Momentous Institute’s lab school, Momentous School, while the students were in class. As part of the tour we were told how the proceeds from the tournament are used to fund both the school and programs for Momentous Institute. This was so memorable to me because the school is tailored around teaching students social emotional health, which is different than most schools. Their graduation rates were astounding and impressive. On this particular day, we received a glitter ball. These glitter balls had been given to the students as a technique to use when the students were experiencing moments of stress or too many emotions. The message to the students was “Settle Your Glitter”. Whenever their emotions felt “shaken up”, the ball became a tool for them to settle their emotions as they watched the glitter slowly return to the bottom of the ball. The school and the work they do, keeps me coming back as a volunteer.
The other memorable time for me is working in the cart barn and getting to meet so many of the volunteers and Red Pants every year. Prepping the cart for Peggy Nelson and other dignitaries is exciting and fun. We take a lot of pride in providing the carts to those that need them ensuring they are charged and cleaned as much as possible. The comradery of those that work in the barn, working together to ensure a smooth delivery and intake of the carts is a special experience. It is really all the people who volunteer and give of their time to make the tournament a success every year that is memorable. In addition to the volunteers, the staff that works on the planning all year are always gracious and inviting. I realize they have a challenging job but they do it with grace.
Which day of the tournament is your favorite?
Brian Nicholas: I think Saturday is probably my favorite day of tournament week. From a spectator perspective, because it’s “moving day” for the players; From a volunteer perspective, because it’s always the best day for spectator turnout. The Volunteer Party, which is most always held on Saturday, also gives me an opportunity to catch up with many volunteers who I might not see during the week.
Monica Nicholas: This is a hard one, because I really enjoy the weekend events. Saturday is always a high attendance day and it is also the Volunteer Party, so it is such great fun to mingle with the fans and re-connect with volunteer friends. Sunday is also incredible as we get to witness the end of tournament and celebrate with the new champion!
Johnny Snell: Sunday’s are my favorite day of the tournament because there is a buzz and excitement in the air to crown the winner. It is also a day for us in the cart barn to stage the carts in the area for them to be picked up. Sunday is a day to reflect on how the week went, the challenges, the fun, and the excitement of another successful tournament.
Thank you so much Brian, Monica, and Johnny! We can’t wait to be back together on the course making sure that the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson will be the best tournament! We missed you in 2020 and look forward to seeing you soon!
To learn more about different volunteer committees and opportunities, please visit our website: http://www.attbyronnelson.org/volunteers/.