Volunteers come out in bunches for disc golf event

There's a number of reasons the pros call the U.S. Disc Golf Championship in Rock Hill one of their favorite stops.

There's the prestige that comes with winning one of sport's majors. The players' love the pristine Winthrop Gold Course that competitors have nicknamed the Augusta National of disc golf. There's also the $15,000 that comes with winning.

Then there's Sammy Poole, one of the nearly 100 volunteers that make the event run so smoothly.

Players and their families love the 65- year-old and the variety of homemade ice cream treats he brings to the tournament. His little corner of the pro shop in The Shack is probably the most popular stop on the grounds.

"This is my ninth year coming to the tournament and seventh bringing the ice cream," said Poole, whose son Jonathan is the tournament director. "I start making and freezing it in June."

Poole said he'll go through about 25 gallons this week.

What makes Poole's ice cream so popular is the variety of flavors the former touring gospel singer has concocted. This week's menu has included the usual suspects -- vanilla, chocolate and strawberry -- but players have dined on Snickers, peanut butter and pumpkin raisin.

Today, Poole, who remains active despite battling Parkinson's disease, will bring a churn or two of cantaloupe, one of the nearly 100 flavors he's developed.

"There's always a line," Poole said with a smile. "It's a bright spot for the players and a happy time for me. This is the only event I do."

There is no charge for the small cup of frozen bliss, but Poole will accept donations to the Good Shepherd Ministries.

Tournament spokesman Mark Southard says volunteers like Poole are crucial to making the tournament enjoyable for players, their families and friends.

"Most tournaments have five to 10 volunteers," Southard said. "We have close to 100."

Volunteers do a variety of jobs during the event. Many are on site before the sun comes up and leave after it goes down.

They serve as spotters on each hole, help with scoring, answer questions, deliver meals to other volunteers and shuttle players to and from the various parking lots.

"This course is one of the longer ones we play, and it's really spread out," Southard said. "You rarely see golf carts at other events. This week we have dozens of them."

Some volunteers work at The Kids Zone, a daycare for players' children located across Eden Terrace in the First Pentecostal Holiness Church.

Southard said he starts putting a list of volunteers together two months before the event.

"We have some that we know will be here every year," he said.

Most volunteers, who take time off from their jobs, come from North and South Carolina, but there are others from as far away as Minnesota and Idaho.

Then, there's David Leger.

Leger paid his own way from the Loire Valley in central France, where he's a winemaker. The purpose of Leger's trip to Rock Hill is twofold.

He's establishing a disc golf program in France and wanted to meet with officials of Innova Disc Golf, the No. 1 manufacturer of discs in the United States. He also wanted to learn more about how tournaments were run.

"My goal is to put a disc in the hands of kids and adults all over France," Leger, who was delivering lunches on Friday, said. "For me to sell the game, I need to know everything there is to know about the game. This is the perfect place to learn, and it has been a wonderful experience volunteering."