For Father’s Day, U.S. Open sure beats a necktie

Greg Stewart

One local man will have one of the best seats in the house for this week’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Paul Kessler, a Caterpillar Inc. employee from East Peoria, is working as a volunteer for the 108th national golf championship, to be held outside San Diego. Kessler has family in San Diego and already had a trip planned for this week.

“I decided if I was already going to San Diego for a week to watch the Open, then I might as well be part of the action,” Kessler said. “I filled out the online form and waited to see if I would be accepted.”

Kessler was impressed with the USGA’s quick turnaround -- just three days -- and soon was on his way to working at the U.S. Open.

“I always wondered how those guys with the ‘Quiet’ signs got inside the ropes,” Kessler said.

Now he knows.

Kessler received confirmation he was accepted as a volunteer in January 2007. It was almost six months later, though, before he found out what his job would be. Interested volunteers had to choose between more than 30 committees on which they would be willing to work.

Kessler’s first choice was to be a course marshal — “the guys that hold the ‘Quiet’ signs” — with the Leaderboards/Thruboards committee as his second choice. He was assigned to Leaderboards/Thruboards, and last fall found out which holes he’d be working. On Thursday, Kessler will be updating the scoreboard on No. 14. Friday’s assignment is hole No. 7 and Saturday’s is No. 8. The 14th hole is under consideration by the USGA to be set up as a 277-yard, drivable par 4.

“I hope they do it on Thursday,” Kessler said of No. 14. “Even though I’ll be working, I’ll have plenty of opportunities during my shifts to watch the action.”

The opportunity to volunteer at a U.S. Open comes with a price.

Volunteers are asked to pay $150 for their tournament package, which includes a jacket, two golf shirts, a hat and a tournament credential that allows them access to the grounds for all seven days of the championship.

“Not a bad deal,” Kessler said. “They’re Ashworth shirts and they have the USGA Volunteer logo on the sleeve. Pretty sweet.”

His vacation won’t be all work and no play. Kessler plans to squeeze in a few rounds of golf with his brother-in-law, Steve Schairer. They plan to play Sunday morning, then head to Torrey Pines to watch the final round of the tournament.

As if the week already weren’t special enough, Sunday also will mark the first Father’s Day for the 39-year-old native of Farmer City. He and wife Cindy’s first child, Billy, was born last July.

“A U.S. Open and my first Father’s Day all rolled up into one day,” Kessler said. “I’m looking forward to a great week.”

Greg Stewart can be reached at (309) 686-3202 or