Eastern Wake: Sports

July 29, 2014

Knightdale teen volunteers at U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2

One lucky Knightdale girl, 16-year-old Kori Robertson, had the opportunity to walk the course with the pros as a volunteer standard-bearer at this summer’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.

Professional golfers like Adam Scott and Bubba Watson routinely wow a national television audience.

Imagine walking the course with them, witnessing their drives and divots, pitches and putts from only a few feet away.

One lucky Knightdale girl, 16-year-old Kori Robertson, had the opportunity to do just that as a volunteer standard-bearer at this summer’s U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Robertson recalls the moment she found out she was selected for the unique position.

“I was very excited,” she said of getting to volunteer. “Then when I found out I was going to be a standard-bearer and actually getting to walk on the course, I was even more ecstatic.”

The PGA puts forth a television product that is easily digested by even a casual fan. The picture cuts quickly from golfer to golfer, as soft-spoken commentary and state-of-the-art graphics help guide the viewer along. An important stroke is never missed.

But for those in attendance – both spectators and members of the media – it’s impossible to follow the entire 156-player field that was spread out across the 196-acre Pinehurst track this summer.

That’s one of the perks of being a standard-bearer. Assigned to a three-golfer grouping, the standard-bearer carries a 10-pound sign that displays the names and respective scores of each golfer in the group.

On opening day, Robertson was assigned to follow Scott (the world’s No. 1 golfer, 2013 Masters winner), Watson (2012, 2014 Masters winner) and Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters winner). Later on in the tournament, she kept score for Ian Poulter, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Thongchai Jaidee.

Robertson might have been star-struck had the professional golfers not been so cordial with her.

“When I first met them, all three, from both groups, came up and would shake my hand and introduce themselves,” Robertson said. “Throughout the day, I remember Adam Scott would periodically talk to me, and Ian Poulter would, too. Both of them are very nice people.”

All six of the golfers Robertson followed gave her a signed golf ball after she had completed the seven-and-a-half mile trek around the course. The signature Poulter provided came complete with a tiny drawing by the famous linksman.

“He drew a little golf hole with a flag,” Robertson said.

Robertson doesn’t play golf herself, but every year she likes to watch the U.S. Open with her father, Butch Robertson. This year was different, though. Instead of watching it on TV, the father and daughter both worked the event as volunteers.

Butch, who had volunteered at Pinehurst when it hosted the U.S. Open in 1999 and 2005, was responsible for course evacuation in 2014. Since he needed to be aware of approaching inclement weather at a moment’s notice, Butch was allowed the special privilege of bringing his cell phone on the course, which is not normally permitted.

He used the device to snap a few pictures so he would always remember the time he and his daughter volunteered at the U.S. Open together.

“Unbelievable. The best year,” Butch said. “It was fun because when (Kori) worked the first day, I had finished my shift so I got to follow her when she was with the group of international Masters winners.”

Butch couldn’t believe that in this tournament (where a bad stroke could result in the loss of tens of thousands of dollars) a player like Scott would break focus to check in on his daughter, to ask how she was doing carrying the sign above her head for all to read.

“For those guys to do that at that tournament, it really impressed me,” Butch said.

Kori Robertson was a natural, too. Members of the USGA had been watching her on a closed-circuit TV at their headquarters while she kept score for the premier group of Scott, Watson and Schwartzel. She did so well that they invited her back for an unscheduled day of volunteering at the U.S. Women’s Open the following week.

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