ROLAND, Ark. — Bright-eyed and eager, two ball spotters headed for The Alotian Club on a shuttle leaned forward for the scoop on what hole to stake out when their volunteer tour was over.
What do you want to see at the Western Amateur, asked a man two rows in front of them on the bus.
Birdies, they said.
Go to No. 8 or No 14, both par fives, the man suggested. These guys will make birdies there and some eagles, he said.
Three rows up, a man who said he had caddied dozens of rounds at The Alotian announced his game plan. Going straight to No. 16, he said. A splendid par three, short or left is wet.
On the 15-minute ride from a parking lot hard by Highway 10 to the left turn onto Alotian Drive, the talk was all about the rare opportunity to see the exclusive course west of Little Rock.
Across the aisle, the bright yellow shirt with the London accent was unsure about his plans. A downtown worker, he was on the bus because of his 9-year-old son beside him. How long they would be in attendance depended on the boy, he said.
One of the ball spotters, a junior at Little Rock Catholic who plays mostly muny courses in the city, asked about applying to caddie at The Alotian. The former caddie tossed out the appropriate contacts.
Three days into the tournament, there were new faces on the westbound buses and vans, but the topic of conversation was the same.
Bus driver Monty Smith, the assistant athletic director at Episcopal Collegiate, shared his visit with a husband and wife. The woman made it clear she cared nothing about golf, that she was on the bus at her husband’ insistence. "He owes me big time," she told Smith.
Coincidentally, Smith picked up the couple when they exited the golf course. "Most beautiful thing I’ve seen in my life," she said.
At the on-course drop off before 8 a.m. one day, a 73-year-old North Little Rock man boarded the bus. Normally, the man said, he walks at the gym every day, but this day he made use of a relative’s badge and walked Nos. 15, 16, 17, and 18.
"Breathtaking," he said, adding that he had played most of the courses in Pulaski County.
Scheduled to drive five days — alternating white shirt and blue shirt each day with red cap everyday like the other volunteers — Smith still planned to walk the course at some point. "I’d be a fool not to," he said.
"I might be tired, but I can do it," said the father of a local high school quarterback.
More ambitious was the man preparing to board one of the four vans being used to ferry folks. Told about the elevation changes at The Alotian, he promised to walk 36 holes. The last time I saw him, he had not set foot on the course. Instead, he was behind No. 1 tee high above the pines, contemplating the huge drop to the fairway and the ensuing incline to a green about six city blocks away.
About 20 of the 118 volunteers assigned to the Parking Committee are driving the shuttles. All volunteers were asked to list three committees they were interested in serving on and parking doesn’t have the pizazz of marshal or standard bearer or scorer, but the hospitable and helpful people doing the work didn’t seem to care.
A man at the media parking lot expressed the sentiment of many when he said the opportunity to see The Alotian is "why I volunteered."
In the name of fairness, not everybody was gung-ho about the experience.
Cheeks red from the sun, hair plastered with sweat, one shuttle passenger said she was not interested in golf. She just finished walking nine holes, her dad said.
She was 8.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.