It's my responsibility as a steward of golf in Utah to make sure this event showcased Utah in a good light. —Chris Stover
MIDWAY — He's seen busily bobbing around the concrete barrier walls that surround the giant clubhouse perched at Solider Hollow, site of this week's Public Links Amateur Championship.
The sun beats on his head and back as he scurries around like a worker ant in temperatures rarely seen in Heber Valley this time of year. He's working like a sled-pulling dog, doing his duty, setting the pace, getting it all down and organized and right.
This is Chris Stover, head golf professional at Palisades State Park near Manti. In his normal world, he'd be at Palisades collecting green fees in his own clubhouse with a soft drink in one hand and binoculars in the other, coolly inspecting players, looking after his golf carts and making sure the sprinklers turn on.
But Stover stepped up.
Just like more than 300 volunteers at the USGA event from all over the state, he dropped what he was doing and answered the call to come help host this championship.
Without these volunteers, Midway, Soldier Hollow and the hosts of this first ever national USGA event would have been embarrassed. Silly embarrassed.
When word went out about Solider Hollow hosting this event, Stover, who is the secretary of the Utah Section of the PGA, called Soldier Hollow's head professional, Chris Newsome, and told him he could count him in for the whole week and any organization leading up to the event.
"It's my responsibility as a steward of golf in Utah to make sure this event showcased Utah in a good light," Stover told me this week when I tackled him in between bib runs.
"I told Chris to give me something he wasn't interesting in doing — something substantial that was a headache — and I'd take care of it so he wouldn't have to worry about it," said Stover.
Newsome named him caddy master.
A caddy master is in charge of all the player caddies, orienting them to the rules, handing out bibs with player names on them, collecting them every day, taking them to the laundry every day and handing them back out to those who stayed alive in the championship every day.
"We could have used more volunteers, but getting more than 300 has been fantastic," said Jim Harland, chairman of the Utah Golf Association.
"Chris really came through this week, as did many others," said Newsome.
Thing about Stover is, nobody counted on his wife undergoing major surgery and being hospitalized this entire week.
His wife, Erica, went in for some elective surgery and learned she needed much more than that. A teacher at Snow College, she needed six weeks' recovery time and her surgery date was last Monday, the day the Public Links Amateur began.
He couldn't back out on Newsome.
So when his days have finished about 8:30 p.m., Chris Stover has rushed down to Orem Community Hospital to see his wife and he's had to use siblings, his parents and his in-laws to tend his children.
What a volunteer.
"To my wife's credit, she understands that's how golf can be. She's been awesome about it."
Stover's presence at the championship has been visible and hands on with the caddies.
"It's been early mornings, but the most challenging thing is every match has a loser and you still have to get their bib back — sometimes in the parking lot when they've just lost."
His favorite part is speaking with the caddies. "Most are fathers, caddying for their sons. It's been great to see these fathers be there for their sons, supporting them, helping them and talking about their game. Golf is a family thing and those relationships are awesome."
Stover said feedback from caddies and players of Soldier Hollow and the host venue have been positive and full of praise. But walking the Gold Course has about killed them — a real test of golf.
"The first-aid tent has been frequented all week with guys needing work on blisters and players and caddies have gone through tons of water out there."
Who knows when Utah will be able to host another national championship. The USGA sponsors more than a dozen national events, including its diamond, the U.S. Open, which was at the Olympic Club in San Francisco last month.
Time will tell.
But with guys like Stover stepping up?
Nobody is a loser.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected]