For the past 40 years, they’ve been telling people to shut up.
But Ron Wright and Ken Kinnaird do it nicely.
This week marks the 11th year that Wright, 63, and Kinnaird, 73, have been marshals – they’re technically hole captains – at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow.
The two started as marshals at Quail Hollow’s Kemper Open in the 1970s. Marshals are responsible for keeping the crowds quiet and respectful for nearby golfers.
“To make things run smoothly and keep it quiet for the players – they’re critical,” said Paula Burnett, the tournament’s volunteer coordinator.
Wright’s in charge of Hole 4 and Kinnaird, Hole 5. A third Kemper veteran, Jerry Gerald, was in charge of Hole 3 but died two years ago, Wright said.
Wrightof Gastonia said he had remembered working with Kinnaird of Charlotte in the ’70s and that they’re friends now.
“We pick at each other all the time,” he said. “We’re family. And we make sure the people that come here have a wonderful experience. We’re here for them.”
A lot has changed since the 1970s. Wright recalls about 160 marshals at Kemper, but now, there are about 1,200 at the Wells Fargo event.
Marshals are volunteers, or as the tournament calls them, ambassadors, and each get two tickets to the tournament, said Carole Millberg, a co-chair for the marshals, who has also volunteered at the tournament for 11 years. New marshals have to attend training where they learn about marking balls for players, approaching noisemakers and proper etiquette. Marshals also help answer questions and give directions.
After more than a decade at this larger tournament, they have entertaining stories from their experiences as professional shush-ers.
Kinnaird offered a wide smile and a big laugh when asked about war stories, saying it can get hairy when people have had a few too many beers.
Wright shared a few memories: One woman once offered him $50 for Phil Mickelson’s tee. (He didn’t do it.) And an inebriated man once yelled at a woman driving a cart, “Hey baby, I need a ride to my car!”
In the past 11 years, Wright estimated about half a dozen people have had to be escorted away or arrested for disorderly conduct.
But for the most part, the two agreed that the crowds are respectful and listen to their calls of “Quiet please!” and “Stand please!”
“Usually if I go to the person and talk to them, I don’t have to take their phone,” Kinnaird said.
Wright enjoys cutting up with kids – “Where’s your get-out-of-school pass?” – and teaching them how to marshal.
He recalled one small boy who timidly told people to be quiet, and when that didn’t work, yelled, “Y’all hush!”
“There were probably 100 people there and they just exploded laughing,” he said.
Even though Kinnaird and Wright spend most of their time during tournaments making sure people keep decorum, they don’t describe themselves as quiet people.
Wright said he loves talking and being around people.
Kinnaird said: “Oh no, I can be real noisy.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; On Twitter: @lruebens
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