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Volunteer now; you can thank me later

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Athletes with manners.

No, it’s not the impossible dream.

We often hear about those who are rude, spoiled and just plain nasty. Athletes usually get a lot of publicity if they win a lot, or if they act really stupid.

Does anyone notice or care when athletes say “please” and “thanks” and “I really appreciate that?”

It appears they do.

Jim Dietz, director of sports tourism for the Columbus Area Visitors Center, thought he had an imposing challenge when he had to fill 277 volunteer shifts to work the American Junior Golf Association event, the Under Armour/Jeff Overton Championship, that begins with Sunday’s qualifier at Otter Creek and continues through July 3.

Then all the volunteers from last year’s event came back to sign up. Then new volunteers came to sign up because they had talked to the people who worked in 2013.

“The volunteers from last year had a good time,” Dietz said. “And they said that the kids were incredibly polite. I experienced the same thing.”

From being around athletes for a lifetime, I could say it takes only one creepy athlete to spoil a day. Kudos to the AJGA for understanding that fact, and passing the information along to the players, who go out of their way to thank volunteers. These events give players exposure to college recruiters that simply would not be possible without the work of a lot of folks donating their time.

The AJGA has a code of conduct that strictly is enforced. Throw your clubs, use profanity or show up with saggy shorts, and then start looking for another tour. You get banished from the one that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson played when they were kids.

It’s a setting that is just a pleasure to be around. Then throw in the fact that you might just be watching a future Woods or Mickelson.

Consider that 24 of the past 32 NCAA men’s golf individual champs and 19 of the past 26 women’s titlists played on the AJGA tour.

“I think people were surprised last year just how good these kids were,” Dietz said.

Whether you are a volunteer or a spectator, you are going to see some good golf. After the qualifying round Sunday and the youth clinic Monday, the tournament begins with its first round July 1 and runs three consecutive days with

18 holes each day.

Dietz still has about 35 volunteer shifts left to fill, so you have an opportunity to help if you wish. He needs help on Sunday’s morning shift for the qualifying round and the July 1 and 2 morning and afternoon shifts. If you work more than one shift, you get a hat and a T-shirt.

He noted that many of the positions will have access to shade, and he notes that volunteers are given beverages and food.

Dietz emphasized that volunteers don’t need to know anything about golf.

“I can explain to anyone in five minutes what they need to do,” Dietz said.

Anyone who would like to volunteer can call Dietz at 812-378-2622 or email him at

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.

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