By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal staff writer
For 30 years, Firestone Country Club's ''Monster'' has been his refuge.
University of Akron graduate Bob Siederer left the Rubber City in 1982, his job with IBM taking him to Maryland, to Florida, and then to California. But by then he had worked as a marshal at Firestone's PGA Tour event for eight years and had been hooked by the signature 16th hole on its famed South Course.
''No matter how crazy my life has been at different places I've been living, that one week I know I'm supposed to be there and everything's right with the world,'' Siederer said last week.
He had just begun a 41/2-day drive to Ohio from his home in Campbell, Calif., outside San Jose.
All week during the $8.5 million Bridgestone Invitational, Siederer has been at his usual post, at the top of the hill in the landing area on the right side of the 16th fairway. This is the 59-year-old New Jersey native's 35th year as a volunteer at Firestone, a job Siederer first assumed in 1974.
Working as one of two chief marshals at the par-5 that was nicknamed ''The Monster'' by Arnold Palmer when he took a triple-bogey there during the 1960 PGA Championship, Siederer cherishes the miraculous moments, good and bad.
His favorite was Tom Kite hitting the 16th green in 2 shots before the South Course's greens were rebuilt and the hole, which was 625 yards when Palmer chastised it, was lengthened to 667 yards.
''It used to be a very rare occurrence,'' Siederer said. ''Tom was the last one to do it before the greens were rebuilt. There were only three or four before that. For the longest time, nobody did it.
''Last year on Saturday and Sunday, they moved the tee up; people were going at it like crazy and one or two got it to stick.''
But Kite's shot was unique, Siederer said.
''The funny thing about Tom's, his was a mistake,'' Siederer said. ''He topped the shot. I only found that out at the Senior PGA [at Firestone in 2002] when I said something to his caddie. I said, 'Did she know he was one of the first people to make it?' She told me it was a mistake.''
When it happened, the possibility Kite could reach the green never crossed Siederer's mind.
''I didn't actually think he'd make it, I just kind of went, 'Wow.' He's not that long a hitter,'' he said.
Kite is one of Siederer's favorite players because of his consistency.
''Look at how many years he was the money leader for finishing second. He's a nice guy, and he's my age,'' Siederer said.
Another memory Siederer relishes involved Palmer, but it didn't come at the Monster. On the 12th hole of the North Course during the American Golf Classic in 1976, Palmer's ball came to rest under a pine tree, and Palmer asked Siederer if he wanted to hit for him.
''He was kidding,'' Siederer said. ''There was a crowd following him and he said that and I just laughed and said, 'I don't think so. You don't want me hitting that.'
''He actually got out from under that pine tree amazingly well. I would have moved it about 2 feet.''
Other oddball shots are etched in Siederer's brain.
''It's the unconventional ones I remember more, and the really long drives,'' he said. ''Greg Norman hitting one off his knees to get out from under a tree. Curtis Strange taking a 10 one year, that was an adventure.
''I've seen some unbelievable recovery shots from over in those trees. You can actually get away with an awful lot over there on the right side. I'm amazed at how some of these players can thread the needle of the crowd in between trees and keep the thing three feet off the ground and hit it 200 yards back into the fairway. That blows my mind every time.''
Siederer's spot on the right side is also frequented by the Nike ball of seven-time Bridgestone champion Tiger Woods, so Siederer is always on the alert for a wayward Woods' tee shot. But even then, a fan managed to pick up Woods' ball once on Siederer's watch.
''Some spectators grabbed the guy and made him drop the ball,'' Siederer said. ''It didn't bother Tiger one bit. That's concentration.''
During his first tournament, Siederer wouldn't have been that smart during a crisis.
''They sort of stuck me out there. I didn't know what was going on, and I only worked the weekend,'' he said. ''There was a thunderstorm and they stopped play and I didn't know what to do. I ended up there with Andy North and his caddie underneath his umbrella for about an hour. The temperature dropped from 85 to about 60 and the wind picked up. It wasn't a pleasant afternoon the rest of the way.''
Now during a rain delay, Siederer drives a van ferrying golfers back to the clubhouse.
After graduating with an undergraduate degree in accounting and a graduate degree in technical education, Siederer taught computer language courses part-time at UA for three years. One of the project managers, Dick Ellison was a Jaycee, and at that time the Jaycees were responsible for lining up the marshals for Firestone. When Ellison offered Siederer a spot, he jumped at the chance.
Working 271/2 years with IBM before retiring, Siederer has missed only two years at Firestone. When he got a new position in California, he waited until he had accepted the offer before telling his boss he would only be there for three weeks before the tournament began. Siederer had hedged his bets and bought his plane ticket from California to Akron before the offer came through.
Reconnecting with old friends, neighbors and volunteers are parts of the reason Siederer returns. He stays in Hudson at the home of Ann and Bob Briechele, who hired him as a student assistant at the computer center.
But the biggest lure is his special place at No. 16.
''I believe it's the longest hole on tour,'' he said. ''It has this history, Palmer naming it the Monster way back when. Being the signature hole, having seen some of the interesting things I've seen there, plus it's a beautiful hole with the lake.
''From where I stand, the view is just terrific. I can see the hole. If there's any kind of breeze I'm going to feel it. I've got that big maple tree to stand under so I've got shade all day. There's a bathroom nearby. There's water on the next tee. It's one of the top spots to be on a course where there aren't too many bad spots.''
Siederer's friends in California have asked him why he doesn't opt to work at Pebble Beach, which is about 90 minutes from his house, and he knows he could.
''But I'd be starting off as a rookie to them. And besides, they wear knickers,'' he said, scoffing at the thought. ''Firestone, I think it's one of the top five most recognized courses to nongolfers. They're going to think of Augusta, they're going to think of Pebble Beach, then probably after that Firestone is pretty high on the list. To be able to work at that, to be on the good side of the ropes is really quite a treat.''