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Hours before even the most die-hard of golf fans appeared at Congressional Country Club in search of an autograph or a glimpse of professional golfers at work, Paul Dillon was already there.

The Rockville retiree was one of roughly 1,600 volunteers who donated their time last week to help run this year’s AT&T National Tournament at Congressional in Bethesda.

Most volunteer to get close to the action and Dillon said he’s no different. Dillon, a member at Congressional, reported for duty at 4:30 a.m. each day he worked to see the course in a whole new light, one transformed from a quiet, sparse landscape to one buzzing with activity in preparation for each day’s rounds.

“When you show up as a golfer at eight in the morning you never see the work that goes into getting it together,” Dillon said. “You don’t see all the people it takes.”

Volunteer work ranges from serving as course marshals, who patrol each hole making sure spectators don’t walk onto the fairways, assisting with admissions, food preparation, general information and hospitality. Nearly all jobs require the volunteers to be older than 18, but some younger fans are assigned to duties on the driving range or as standard barriers for the golfers.

Volunteerism is a tradition at golf tournaments. Last year’s U.S. Open attracted 5,300 volunteers, according to the United States Golf Association.

It is also not without its perils. On the morning of June 29 Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service reported that a volunteer was taken to the hospital for a severe neck injury in a golf cart accident.

As a volunteer veteran — Dillon has offered his services at every tournament held at Congressional since 2007 — he was assigned the job of Chairman of the Pro-Am Committee which put him in charge of organizing volunteers for the June 27 warm up game.

Bethesda’s Jillian Horwitz joined a group of 90 volunteer-employees from the aerospace technology development and manufacturing company Lockheed Martin to stuff care packages for military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The volunteers set up a tent with the nonprofit USO near the 17th tee box where volunteers could fill plastic bags with toiletries and goods. Those bags will eventually be sent to forwarding bases aboard.

“It’s neat to do something that I think is really giving back,” she said.

aruoff@gazette.net