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Volunteers crucial to PGA's charity work

David Duval was one of the big winners last weekend at The Players Championship.

Duval became the No. 1 player in the world as he won the star-studded event. He walked away with a $900,000 check, as well.

The big winner, however, never picked up a golf club -- but will still be the beneficiary of nearly $1 million.

The PGA Tour, which is a non-profit organisation, donated $757,500 to charities last year following the The Players Championship, and, according to tournament director Brian Goin, that number should be close to the $1-million mark this year.

"Our No. 1 goal is always to try to give more than the winner gets," Goin said, noting that last year's winner of The Players Championship, Justin Leonard, received $720,000. "The slogan that the Tour has is that the leading money-winner is charity."

In all, the PGA Tour raised a record $39,866,375 last year for charitable causes throughout North America and -- factoring in The President's Cup -- around the world. Since 1938, when the first donation was made, the PGA Tour has generated more than $380 million for worthy causes -- a figure that jumps to $450 million when the Senior PGA Tour and Nike Tour are combined.

Those astounding figures are made possible, in part, due to the thousands of men and women around the country who volunteer at each and every Tour event. Those volunteers do a broad range of jobs from answering phones to manning security posts to labour. Without those volunteers, the tournaments would have to pay workers to do the same jobs the volunteers gratefully do.

At The Players Championship alone there are approximately 1,400 volunteers. Based on a 40-hour week at just $6 an hour, that tab would come to $300,000, which would consume almost one-third of the money the tournament could give to charity. That number, of course, is a conservative estimate.

"Without the volunteers and us having to pay temporary labour, there's no way we would have been able to give $757,000 to charity," said Goin, who estimated 65 percent of the current volunteers have worked over five years. "We'd be lucky probably to break even. They're very valuable to any tournament. The volunteers are, without a doubt, a key to the charitable giving on the PGA Tour."

The fact that the volunteers free up a large sum of money to go to charity is a proud topic among them.

"It's a privilege," said volunteer Carney Kirtley, who has donated her time at The Players Championship since 1976. "It's great for the community. It's like giving blood. You feel like you're helping somebody. We know kids will go to college from what we're doing here."

Not only do the volunteers give freely of their time, but they also purchase their own uniforms, buy their own meals and pay for their badge.

"They get involved in the event financially," Goin said. "That helps with our commitment. When you pay for something like that you know they are dedicated to doing a good job."

The volunteers' dedication goes beyond just the week of The Players Championship. They begin working on Saturdays in early February doing construction and heavy labour to get the course ready for the public. And they are there after the masses have gone home, taking care of the ecology and the cleanup process.

"A significant number of people are owed thanks for making The Players Championship such a grand achievement, but it is the volunteers who form the nucleus of that success," said Theresa Greene Hazel, tournament chairman. "Our volunteers give countless hours of time and offer their many diverse talents in order to showcase our tournament."

They also enabled the tournament to keep on giving back to the community throughout the year.