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Dedicated U.S. Open Volunteers Pay to Help

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PINEHURST — It's not unusual for volunteers to help out at various enterprises and charity projects -- but the U.S. Open has such a dedicated group of golf fans that many of its volunteers are paying to help out. And they are delighted to do so.

Some of the world's best players are in Pinehurst for the U.S. Open, and between 25,000 and 40,000 fans will descend on the resort village for the tournament.

That calls for enormous organization -- and many hands to help out. So the call went out for volunteers. Although about 60 percent of the 5,500 volunteers are Moore County residents, response has also come from 41 other states and seven countries.

Don Blakeman is a locally based volunteer. His role, he says, is to keep the fans quiet and make sure they are not moving. No distractions should hamper the golfers. After Blackman works several days, he can be a spectator on his days off.

"Join in the fun," he says.

Being able to see part of the U.S. Open was a draw to many people, since tickets were very hard to come by -- and expensive.

Jim Norton, however, won't be seeing any of the action. His volunteer duty consists of driving a green shuttle bus around the area for eight hours a day, taking people back and forth to the course.

Volunteer Robbie Burwell paid $150 to help out. The 16-year-old carries signs that tell spectators who is teeing off.

And carrying that sign allows him to get inside the ropes, and to meet the various golfers.

Also on hand will be lots of soldiers. Four hundred Army volunteers from Fort Bragg are at the tournament to help with security.

They'll keep watch on the perimeter of the golf course to keep people from sneaking in or hopping the fence to get out.

About 40,000 people a day are expected at the U.S. Open.

In addition to the soldiers, SBI agents, Moore County sheriff's deputies and local police officers will also provide security.

More and more fans are streaming into Pinehurst every minute. Each is hopeful of spotting their favorite golf pros, the possibly of getting an autograph or photo -- and definitely watching some action.

Monday, however, is the first official day of practice. Still, that can be fun to watch.

Many of the pros might not arrive until Monday night. Heavy rains in Memphis delayed the finish of the St. Jude Classic, which affected golfers' travel plans. The U.S. Open will start on Thursday.

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Ericka Lewis, Reporter
Ron Pittman, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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