John and MaryAnn Soukup carry the volunteer spirit into this summer’s U.S. Junior Amateur
by Steve Brandon
It was 13 years ago when MaryAnn and John Soukup knew that Bandon, Oregon was the place for them to be.
Just like they know that Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails are where they will be this July.
Those two courses at the famed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort on the southern Oregon Coast will be the site of the U.S. Junior Amateur July 25-30.
And the Soukups will be there to help make it all happen.
The couple, who moved to Bandon from Kansas City in 2009, will be among a volunteer corps approaching 200 for the USGA national championship.
Major events couldn’t do what they do, and offer what they offer, without people like the Soukups.
“The volunteers play such an important role,” says Jeff Simonds, assistant general manager and senior director of operations at Bandon Dunes.
The Soukups are all about golf, community and involvement, and that’s the perfect mix for someone who signs up to spend one or more days doing whatever task a U.S. Junior Am needs them to do.
“It’s a fun time, especially with USGA events,” says MaryAnn, a certified public accountant. “They’re very well-organized, and the people are so nice.”
Her husband John agrees. “I just love to be out there. I want to be involved with it.”
John retired April 1 after 30 years as a physical therapist. That means he has no job limiting how many hours he can spend in this year’s volunteer effort.
“I’m very excited and lucky now to be able to do it all week,” he says.
The Soukups’ favorite role is being a walking scorer, which follows a group of players and records the hole-by-hole scores.
“I’m always the first to sign up so I can get that gig, if I can,” John says. “It’s an amazing opportunity to get up close to players who play at a high level and on a spectacular course.”
The 2022 U.S. Junior Amateur will start with two days of stroke play – one round each on the Bandon Dunes and Bandon Trails courses – then move into the 64-player match play stretch that ends with a 36-hole final match.
This will be the fourth time the championship has been held in the Northwest. In 1964, Johnny Miller won at Eugene Country Club. Aly Tromas won the 1969 title at Spokane Country Club. Tiger Woods’ third consecutive title came at Portland’s Waverley Country Club in 1993. Matthew Rosenfeld won at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore. in 2000. Jordan Spieth won it twice, the second title coming in 2011 at Gold Mountain Golf Club in Bremerton, Wash. Other champions include David Duval and Scottie Scheffler, the current No. 1-ranked player in the world and 2022 Masters champion.
John is from Lincoln, Nebraska; MaryAnn grew up in Edina, Missouri. They married in Kansas City in 1994.
MaryAnn didn’t play as much golf as John. “But at some point I realized that what he wanted to do when he went on vacation was play golf,” she says. “So I knew I was going to need to play more and be more comfortable with my game.”
She knew about golf, though, as “I was working for some professional golfers and so had some opportunities to play some nice courses.”
It is putting it mildly to say “some professional golfers.”
“I worked for a company that managed Tom Watson and Lee Trevino,” she says.
She got to meet them, and she gradually got more serious and interested in playing herself. And the Soukups started to spend vacation time at Bandon Dunes shortly after it opened in 1999.
“We just kept coming back to play golf, and we fell in love with the community,” MaryAnn says. “We went up and down the coastline looking around, but felt like we truly fit in Bandon. I think it was the friendliness of the people and the pace of the town. It was pretty relaxed, and it has some nice restaurants and shops, and we like walking on the beach with our golden retriever, Maggie.”
Soon they were doing more than play golf and take walks. MaryAnn is co-founder of 100 Strong Bandon, a women’s giving circle that supports local charities. She also is the chairwoman for Bandon Showcase, a non-profit that brings professional music to town and provides outreach opportunities to area students. John is on the board of directors for the Golf Club at Bandon Dunes.
Volunteering for golf tournaments, especially USGA events, is one of their favorite ways to contribute and give back.
“The opportunities just present themselves,” says John, who has a handicap in the 12-14 range.
One of John’s favorite moments as a volunteer walking scorer came in the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, when he wound up with a father-son team from his native Lincoln.
“On No. 14 at Old Macdonald, an uphill 300-yard par-4, the son, who was age 20-something, hit an iron off the tee,” he says. “I assumed he was going to lay up. But he drove the green. I would have told you that only a handful of players in the world could do that.”
The Soukups were disappointed that because of COVID-19 restrictions they weren’t able to volunteer when the U.S. Amateur was played at Bandon Dunes in 2020. They can’t wait until July, when they’ll put on their volunteer badges and walk some seven miles for 18 holes, inputting scores onto a tablet for the USGA scoring office.
Other tasks for volunteers include everything from registration, to making sure coolers are stocked with water bottles, to taking care of trash, to parking, to offering directions, to guiding traffic, to driving spectators to viewing areas, and more.
“There’s so many moving parts, so many logistics, at a national championship,” Simonds says. “You can’t do it with just the staff that works at the golf facility. And the Soukups are always so selfless. They show up with a smile on their face, happy to help.”
And they’ll be there in July, helping to make the championship happen.
Steve Brandon was the sports editor for the Portland Tribune from 2001-20, and sportswriter for The Oregonian from 1982-2001. In 2002, he was named the Oregon Sportswriter of the Year. He serves on the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame selection committee.