The 43rd U.S. Senior Open at SentryWorld–one of the biggest events in Central Wisconsin history–took years to plan and thousands of volunteers to organize. But it wasn’t just the professional golfers inside the ropes who were the focus when it came to health and safety on the course.
Several University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point students and employees were hard at work behind the scenes while the golf world watched 65-year-old Bernhard Langer from Germany become the oldest champion.
Sixteen athletic training graduate students and six athletic training faculty and staff members spent the week of June 27-July 2 at the U.S. Senior Open, providing medical services to spectators throughout SentryWorld. Donned with medical kits, cooling towels, water bottles, walkie-talkies and red polos to stand out from the other 2,300 volunteers in bright green, the students were assigned to the medical rover team.
For a championship event this scale, it made perfect sense for Sentry and the United States Golf Association (USGA) to collaborate with the largest athletic training program in Wisconsin. Thankfully, that happens to be about a mile from the first tee box at SentryWorld at UW-Stevens Point.
Planning for the tournament began in the fall of 2022 when Professor Holly Schmies, program director of the Master of Science in Athletic Training, met with representatives from Aspirus Health, Sentry Health and Wellness, Portage County EMS, as well as the USGA Planning Committee.
“I put in a lot of time with the planning process, but it was all worth it to make some great connections with health care providers I may never have had the opportunity to work with,” said Schmies.
The local medical community came together to ensure spectator, volunteer and tournament staff medical needs were covered. The goal was to have all onsite medical volunteers with the appropriate level of training to either respond immediately to a person in need or activate the emergency care plan.
“The way the medical sector and public safety sector teams came together to collaborate and problem solve during both the planning process and the event was so positive,” said Schmies. “Everyone joined forces and contributed from their specialty areas with a great outcome.”
Working an event the size of the U.S. Senior Open might be overwhelming for some, but the athletic training students were prepared, thanks to their coursework and clinical rotations. Athletic training students at UW-Stevens Point have a variety of clinical experiences during their first year with clinical preceptors in the Stevens Point area. During their second year, clinical experiences can expand to settings across the nation.
“The students jumped right in and became part of the team,” said Schmies. “They played a big part in prevention of heat illness by identifying those that looked like the heat was getting to them and handed out cooling towels and water. Their initiative and professional communication was a big reason we did not have any serious medical conditions.”
While working on the 7,145-yard course that includes the famous Flower Hole, the student volunteers learned the importance of teamwork and communication.
“It is not something that everyone gets the opportunity to experience,” said Taylor Fuerstenberg, a second-year graduate student from Sussex. “It was interesting to see how all medical professionals, from physicians to nurses to athletic trainers, work together to provide a safe environment for the spectators and volunteers.”
The tournament also provided the students with a hands-on opportunity outside the classroom that they can build upon for their future careers.
“I became more familiar with communicating medical needs via radio, and the importance of the ‘better to have and not need, than to need and not have’ mentality that was highly stressed throughout the event,” said second-year master’s student Sophia Reddan, Madison.
Even though the medical volunteer staff didn’t provide care to any golfers, the golf community made a positive impression on Reddan. “I had wonderful interactions with the spectators, and I felt very welcomed and appreciated throughout the whole event,” said Reddan.
Fuerstenberg was also proud to be a part of the event and lend a hand.
“It was a memorable experience being able to walk the course and talk to the spectators and volunteers that come from all over the United States to experience an event like this,” said Fuerstenberg. “Even if we could help a spectator or volunteer in a small way, it is always a rewarding experience.”
UWSP was well represented at the U.S. Senior Open. Find more photos here.