Paramedic student Chris Ashton had the opportunity to put his training into action – and indulge his love of golf – as a volunteer at one of the sporting calendar’s premier events.
During the Summer, Chris travelled to Gleneagles in Scotland to become a member of the European Team of Volunteers at the 2014 Ryder Cup, which saw Team Europe triumph over rivals Team USA.
Having already volunteered at a Commonwealth Games, an Olympic Games, a Champions League Final and the recent Rugby League World Cup, Chris impressed organisers with his experience and enthusiasm for volunteering. He was selected to join a small team of serving and ex-emergency service personnel as a transition marshal, making sure the players were safe when moving around the course.
“As a sports fan, and specifically a golf fan, to be involved in helping Team Europe win a Ryder Cup in front of 250,000 fans was incredible,” said Chris, whose volunteer project to increase the use of defibrillators in public places has previously won praise from Shadow Health Secretary, Andy Burnham.
Prior to the eight-day event, Chris accompanied the European and American players on their practice rounds, ensuring their safety and keeping fans at arms length while the players signed autographs and posed for photographs. He also assisted in the running of the Junior and Celebrity Ryder Cup tournaments before taking up his role in the main event.
“I had a range of duties,” said Chris, “from protecting the players on the greens to getting them into the buggies to escorting them to the winners’ celebration and the closing ceremony.
“On my mornings off I was able to be a fan again. I managed to acquire all the players’ and captains’ autographs as mementos of my experience. I even got the American team captain, Tom Watson, to pose for his first Ryder Cup selfie when he arrived at the resort!”
As a volunteer, Chris was able to enter the course and grounds for free all week – a privilege that fans had paid in excess of £600 for. Determined to get the most from his Ryder Cup experience, Chris was up at 4am on the morning of the opening match in the hope of securing a coveted seat around the tee.
“It was quite surreal being sat on a golf course with a couple of thousand fans singing songs in the dark. When the sun eventually rose, I was lucky enough to watch all the players enter the arena and then witness the opening tee shots of the 2014 Ryder Cup. This alone made my experience unforgettable and I could quite happily have gone home at that point.
“However, this was topped later in the week when Lee Westwood sank a crucial birdie putt during his singles match and, on leaving the green, gave me his ball as a souvenir. I was like a kid on Christmas morning! Owning a ball that helped win the 2014 Ryder Cup is one of many mementos and memories of what can only be described as one of the best sporting experiences of my life.
“My advice to anyone thinking of giving up their time to volunteer at any sporting event is do it, you won’t regret it!”