Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Volunteers still needed for Suncoast Classic

The Korn Ferry golf tournament, held April 20-23, needs course marshals.

The No. 18 hole at Lakewood National Golf Club often sees big crowds during the LECOM Suncoast Classic.
The No. 18 hole at Lakewood National Golf Club often sees big crowds during the LECOM Suncoast Classic.
File photo
  • East County
  • News
  • Share

It's one of the prime attractions for being a volunteer at a professional golf tournament.

You never know who you will meet.

Take Bradenton's Cindi Hopkins for instance. She has been a volunteer at various golf tournaments for 16 years, the last three with the LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood National.

"It is so much fun, just being out there and watching the crowd, watching the golfers," Hopkins said. "You're outside on a golf course, and it is beautiful."

And every year, she said she meets interesting people.

At the 2017 Presidents Club at Liberty National in New Jersey, Hopkins was volunteering as a golf cart driver when Jack Nicklaus jumped into her cart with his publicist.

She pretty much stayed out of their conversation, but when the ride was over the publicist asked if she wanted a photo with the "Golden Bear."

Of course, it is now a cherished souvenir.

Others she has met during tournaments have been Jim "Bones" Mackay, the former caddie for Phil Mickelson and the current caddie for Justin Thomas, and former LPGA star Michelle Wie.

Although the Suncoast Classic is a Korn Ferry Tour event — the level below the PGA Tour — future and former stars often participate. Past participants have been major champions Scottie Scheffler, Mike Weir and Angel Cabrera, along with PGA Tour star Will Zalatoris and Champions Tour star Steven Alker.

Hopkins and her husband, Mike Gerbasio, are in their second year as directors of the Suncoast Classic's volunteer marshals. The tournament dates are April 20 through 23 and volunteer marshals are still needed.

After its first four years were held in February, this year's Suncoast Classic has moved to April and that means many of the volunteers who were snowbirds already have left the area.

"The more marshals you have, the better," Gerbasio said. "There is no such thing as too many. Last year we had 180, and this year we have about 125."

Those interested can go to and hit the volunteer tab. The volunteer registration fee is $40 ad includes an official LECOM golf shirt and hat, a tournament parking pass, breakfast and lunch on work days, four day passes, and a free round of golf at Lakewood National Golf Club.

"Basically, you are doing crowd control, noise control and spotting the ball," Gerbasio said.

He said being a marshal doesn't require the volunteer to be a golfer. A training session is held April 15 to go over the necessary information.

Hopkins said the spectators are friendly and don't mind being moved around by the marshals.

"We've never had a problem," she said. "They understand."

Lakewood Ranch's Marty Fugardi and his wife, Jamie, volunteer every year.

"We enjoy being that close to the players," Marty Fugardi said. "The majority are very friendly and nice."

The Fugardis usually work as marshals on the Par 5 No. 14 hole for the tournament, which actually is the course's usual No. 5 hole, but the nines are switched for tourney play.

Since it is a blind drive on that hole, they signal to let the players on the tee know that the players in the fairway have moved forward and are out of range. Blind shots also can result in lost balls if spotters don't mark the ball with a flag when it is buried in the rough or in a hazard. A pond is about 325 yards off that tee, so the players can reach it.

Last year, eventual champion Byeong Hun An hit a drive toward some trees to the left of the fairway on the final day. The ball stopped just short of the trees and Marty Fugardi marked it with a flag.

An walked up and saw the flag, then looked at Fugardi.

"Thanks for kicking it out of the woods," An told Fugardi.

Both of them laughed.

Fugardi said he just loves seeing the talent on display.

"We see drives over 350 yards, those amazing distances they get," he said.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

Latest News