Beacon Journal sports writer
Michelle Smith conceded that she agonized as she punched the button to buy an airline ticket to the Bridgestone Invitational.
That's because the 44-year-old was coming from the London suburb of Harrow to work as a volunteer this week at Firestone Country Club. Not only was the plane ticket costly, but she also had to cover hotel and taxi expenses.
''I've had a good month,'' she said of her work as a consultant in media and publishing.
This year's volunteers converged on Akron from 18 states, as well as one each from Canada and England.
Smith had worked only one other tournament, the Dubai Desert Classic last year. She said she followed the Bridgestone closely on television in 2009 and was struck by what she read about the historic course.
Fortunate that her work allows flexibility to travel, Smith spent the week measuring tee shots for ShotLink.
''I can see the huge charitable initiatives, for me that's quite a big thing,'' she said of the tournament's donation to Northeast Ohio charities. ''I did a walk last year in China for Alzheimer's. This was a way of doing something charitable, but something I really enjoy.''
Smith said she is helping to start a youth golf program at St. Andrews for players in emerging markets like China, India, South Africa and Korea.
''Some of these talented youths will not be able to come to St. Andrews. My primary role will be to get sponsors,'' she said.
Smith's favorite golfer is Phil Mickelson because her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer about the same time Mickelson's wife, Amy, and his mother, Mary, learned they had the disease.
''My life really changed then,'' Smith said. ''When I found out about his mom and his wife, that gave me a lot of strength. I would love to meet him.''