A fixture on 14, cherished volunteer golf marshal says this Memorial will be his last

DUBLIN, Ohio (WCMH) — He’s been a staple of Memorial Tournament weekend for years.

“I’ve been here at the same hole for 30 years,” Von Downing said.

At hole no. 14, Downing, a volunteer golf marshal, has been an integral part of the patrons’ experience, bringing smiles to their faces for the last 30 tournaments. And turns out, this Memorial will be his last as a volunteer.

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“That was my commitment. I could go more but I chose not to,” Downing said. “I want to come and watch now. I want to be one of the fans for a change.”

He’s a friendly face you can count on seeing year after year. And the reason why Downing is at Muirfield in the first place is one that will touch your heart.

“My nephew was burnt, over 60 percent of his body. I said I gotta give back because they never sent him a bill after 187 days at Children’s [Hospital]. I said, ‘I’ll give 30 years of volunteering somewhere.’ And somebody said, ‘you need to go to Muirfield,'” Downing said.

The fans are what’s given Downing joy over the last 30 years. When he’s not asking the patrons to be quiet or directing them out of the way when a golf ball goes off course, you’ll find Downing handing out a Werther’s Original, his signature gesture at what’s become a signature event on the PGA Tour.

“The people are everything. Saturdays and Sundays are true golf fans,” Downing said. “I just come over here to sit. These people that come over here to sit. They just enjoy the game of golf.”

Before he goes, Downing is training the next generation of volunteer golf marshals, including nine-year-old Marisol Mitchell. Their friendship is going five years strong. And he says, he’ll miss the friendships he’s made over the years on the other side of the rope.

“My guys. Over the years I’ve been able to forge a relationship with each one of em. I go tell them their starting position and they go to it. I don’t have to do anything,” Downing said. “I used to do the water every year. My ankles aren’t worth doing it anymore. We’ll let the younger ones do it.”

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