It might possibly be the only tournament in world golf to feature an authentic crocodile skull as the centrepiece of the winner’s trophy but the 2018 MMC Northern Territory PGA Championship also boasts one the most unique set of tournament volunteers in the game, certainly outside the United States at the very least.
When twenty one U.S. Marines stationed in Darwin as part of MRF-D (Marine Rotational Forces - Darwin) came calling to offer their services during the tournament, it didn’t take Palmerston Golf Club Marketing Manager Sue Heenan long to think it over.
Stationed strategically around the golf course, on the practice range, around the clubhouse area involved in logistics, running shuttle services between distant greens and tees, some of America’s finest have donned the bright orange tournament shirts this week and mingled with the tournament’s hardy band of ‘civilian’ volunteers to help the tournament run like clockwork.
So far, there have been no reports of near misses on the shuttle routes from accidentally crossing into the right-hand lane out of habit. Hopefully that remains the case through to the tournament’s conclusion on Sunday!
Quite a number are golfers back home, some have only played a handful of times and others, have never touched a club at all.
On his second trip to Australia, Brian Lovell from Curryville, Missouri is one that doesn't play the game but between his shuttle duties, declared ‘It’s been fun to watch so far!’
Brockton Dickison from Cloverdale, Indiana was also enjoying his time at the Championship and spending time in the Territory in general.
"I play a bit of golf just for fun with friends, we have a few drinks and so forth." he said.
Another of their colleagues from Illinios - ‘born in a place surrounded by corn fields’ - plays golf back home but ‘nothing like these guys’, as he shook his head in awe at the starting sheet for day three which was littered with under par red numbers.
The Marines have been all class and have certainly proven to be a welcome and popular addition at Palmerston with their polite, smiling and helpful demeanour. With the galleries expected to be larger in numbers over the weekend rounds, their workloads might be heightened but the full extent of their capabilities will barely be tested.
It's safe to say, the tournament is in very good hands.
Photo: Golfplus Media