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For One Couple, Golf is Going Dutch June 15, 2018 By Alyssa Haduck, USGA

When Maarten and Gerrie-Eva Mol took up golf in their home country of the Netherlands nearly 40 years ago, the sport’s presence in the nation was nearly nonexistent. According to the Mols, there were only about 10,000 golfers in the Dutch Golf Federation (currently the Royal Dutch Golf Federation) and fewer than 20 courses in the entire country at the time. With golf’s relative absence in the Netherlands, the couple discovered their love for the game in Ireland and has since developed a passion for the sport that has driven their intercontinental exploration.

“When we both were in Dublin in 1975 for an international pharmaceutical congress, we heard about the Irish Open. [It] opened our eyes to the full golf experience,” Maarten said. “Friends and colleagues of mine had just started playing golf, which was still quite an elite sport in the Netherlands at that time.

“We still remember the roar from the crowds when Christy O'Connor Jr. won his country's Open. Not long after our trip to Ireland, I had my first golf lessons.”

Today, Maarten and Gerrie-Eva are golf championship regulars and play the game often, as is now common in the Netherlands. Maarten currently works on course maintenance, and Gerrie-Eva, in addition to having served as a member of the Netherlands national senior team, is finishing her final year as a rules official for the Netherlands Golf Federation. Through the couple’s various golf engagements, they discovered the USGA and joined in 2001.

“I became responsible for our course and thus developed an interest in course maintenance and management, to find out that the USGA Green Section is the impartial, authoritative source of information,” Maarten explained. “Since the USGA – in conjunction with The R&A – is also the governing body of the game, it seemed logical to us to join.”

When the USGA asked for volunteers for the 2004 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills, the Mols, by nature, were eager to take part.

“When we join a club, a society, an institution, we get involved; that is, we want to do our share,” Maarten explained. “We considered [volunteering] to be great fun on the one hand, and very interesting to see the organization of such a large tournament from the inside on the other hand, so we joined the 5,200 volunteers.”

Maarten Mol at Bethpage in Farmingdale, N.Y., site of the 2009 U.S. Open. (Maarten Mol photo)

 

This year, the Mols return to Shinnecock for their 14th U.S. Open.  The couple has served in nearly every volunteer role including merchandise, corporate hospitality, will call, course evacuation, admissions, information and grandstand marshalling. Though the Mols acknowledge they could simply attend these championships, it means more to contribute.

“Being in the USGA, we could possibly get tickets,” Maarten said, “but the feeling of being part of the whole thing is much more pleasant.”

For every U.S. Open at which the Mols volunteer, they look forward to connecting with a diverse group of individuals.

“In the Volunteer Pavilion, there usually is a map where volunteers come from,” Maarten explained. “The most enjoyable experiences are of course meeting our fellow golfers.”

Beyond the event’s fanfare and community, the Mols enjoy volunteering at the U.S. Open because traveling to the championship allows them to explore different areas and activities in the United States. Rather than stay in a hotel, however, the couple camps in an RV, giving them the opportunity to truly interact with the new environments they visit.

“We combine the Open with cultural activities: museum visits, opera, classical music. Therefore, it suited us that Opens are held in different parts of the U.S.,” Maarten said.

Of golf overall, Maarten and Gerrie-Eva appreciate the challenge that the game presents and the discipline that it cultivates.

“As a golfer,” Maarten said, “you play to your own ability and can try as hard as you can to become better.”

“Golf teaches you to bridle your emotions and stay in the moment; honesty pays,” Gerrie-Eva added.

For the Mols, the rules of golf combine with the love of the game to create commonalities among places and players. No matter the location and no matter the competition, the couple finds beauty and friendship.

“Golf is usually played in beautiful locations, and you can take part in it all over the world,” Maarten said. “Since it is a sport of etiquette and rules, it attracts mostly nice people. We have made a lot of friends because of golf.”

Alyssa Haduck is the content and storytelling intern for the USGA Foundation. Email her at ahaduck@usga.org.