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Jun 6, 2018 10:49 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Southampton's Joe Raynor Is A Key Cog In The Volunteer Machine At Shinnecock Hills

Joe Raynor of Southampton has been part of every U.S. Open at Shinnecock in the modern era, and will be in charge of scoreboards for the championship next week. CAILIN RILEY
Jun 6, 2018 10:49 AM

When Shinnecock Hills Golf Club was preparing to host the U.S. Open in 1986, among the many tasks that needed to be completed was the construction of several scoreboards across the course. Precision in anchoring the scoreboards to the uneven ground was key, requiring the work of an engineer.

Southampton resident Joe Raynor was recommended for the job by a friend. After completing the work, he found himself returning to the club for the championship as a spectator, courtesy of tickets he’d been provided as a thank you for his work. Mr. Raynor didn’t play golf at the time, but watching the world’s best players compete on one of the country’s most revered courses sparked an interest in the game.

More than 30 years later, Mr. Raynor is a member at both Shinnecock Hills and Southampton Golf Club, an honorary member at The Bridge, and still serving a vital role in making the U.S. Open a success, as it enters its fifth turn hosting at Shinnecock.

He is one of the key volunteers, working as the chairman of the committee for leaderboards and thruboards, coordinating more than 100 other volunteers who will work the component of the championship that was the foundation for his interest in the game—and a key element of spectators’ enjoyment of the experience, as they watch the leaderboards as closely as live play.

Mr. Raynor has been active as a volunteer in the last two Opens at Shinnecock, as part of the contingent from the Southampton Golf Club that marshaled the first hole in 1995, and working as a standard bearer in 2004. He had the most enviable assignment on the final day—he was assigned to the final pairing of the day, Ernie Els and eventual champion Retief Goosen.

They were also accompanied on their walk by Prince Andrew of England, whom Mr. Raynor had met when he and fellow Shinnecock member Jim Wallis had represented the club at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club in Scotland and were paired with him and five-time British Open champion Peter Thompson in an event.

Mr. Raynor’s memories of that Sunday in 2004 are still quite clear.

“Goosen was just playing an amazing game of golf,” he said. He recalled, in particular, tough putts he made on both the 13th and 14th holes after getting into trouble that were key to his victory.

Mr. Raynor gained valuable experience for the role he’s playing in this Open after working as a volunteer on leaderboards and thruboards for the U.S. Women’s Open at neighboring Sebonack Golf Club in 2013.

He was recommended for his position this year by Jack Curtain, the club’s general chairman for the U.S. Open, who works closely with Shinnecock Hills Golf Club President Brett Pickett. As chairman of leaderboards and thruboards committee, Mr. Raynor is responsible for coordinating the schedule of work shifts for roughly 180 volunteers who will update those scoring boards sprinkled throughout the course.

It’s work that’s been ongoing for several months, with training sessions in early May, and has required a lot of coordination with the USGA. During championship week, Mr. Raynor will split his time between the scoring tent near the 13th green and out on the course, where he will check on the volunteers under his charge, making sure they have what they need.

Mr. Raynor is retired, but chairing a committee at the U.S. Open is still an enormous commitment of time and energy, and for someone who, as a member, already has the kind of inside access many regular spectators would envy, he said he has different reasons for wanting to commit to the task.

“I think it all goes back to the fascination of starting to play the game and not just wanting to do it occasionally but getting to the point where you want to play on a regular basis,” he said. “Most of the people who get bitten by the bug follow at least the major tournaments, and the USGA does a wonderful job tending to the game of golf in the U.S. They sponsor so many different tournaments for all levels of players, and rely on people volunteering to do the job they do. I learned that early on, and probably because I saw it in 1986, it just seemed like the right thing to do.

“The volunteers play such an important role in staging this whole thing,” Mr. Raynor continued. “The USGA does a great job of getting us into the right places, but so much work is done by volunteers. Many of the roles are not as visible as mine, but all of the things people do are essential to it being a success.”

Nick Schilling of the USGA said that Mr. Raynor is exactly the type of person they’re looking for when it comes to volunteers, particularly those who chair committees.

“Joe had volunteered for the position before I arrived in Southampton in the fall of 2016, but like all of our committee chairs, Joe, as a member, saw the opportunity to chair the leaderboard committee as a way to give back to Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and the game of golf.

“Joe is very detail-oriented and has a strong desire to help in any way,” Mr. Schilling continued. “He has brought his engineering and surveying background to the leaderboard committee and presented new ideas to improve our volunteer operations that we plan to use going forward. His skill set and personality traits have translated very well into his role. He gets along great with the volunteers and they appreciate all of the support he has provided them in leading up to the championship.”

Like any fan of the game who follows the major players, Mr. Raynor has a few favorites he’d like to see in contention on championship Sunday.

“Rory McIlroy’s manager was a caddy at Shinnecock years ago, so we’ve kept in touch with him,” Mr. Raynor said. “And I did have the pleasure of playing in a pro-am in Melbourne years ago with Adam Scott, so I would love to see him play well. Jordan Spieth has a good game. And how could you not root for Phil Mickelson? He’s never won an Open, and he loves Shinnecock.”

Love of a course that has proven itself worthy of adoration over the centuries is, of course, at the heart of the championship this year. It’s a feeling that does not fade, for pros like Mickelson and for people like Mr. Raynor, who have played there for years.

“The golf course itself is really special, “Mr. Raynor said. “I have been with people who have been members there for 40 or 50 years, and when you’re walking back to the parking lot with them after playing, and say something about how good you feel every time you step on the property, they will say they still feel that way after 40 years.”

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