Mike Shelley probably wouldn’t be manning a pressurized air cannon if it weren’t for the U.S. Open. Like all of the 5,000 volunteers here, he has an ulterior motive.
“In exchange for volunteering for four hours each day, you have access to the golf,” he cheerfully explained.
Shelley is under the science tent, in which visitors are educated on things like top spin, aerial flight, and the varying effects of different style putters – all the stuff that makes golf such a precise, infuriating game.
One may consider the notion that Shelley is a science teacher, and that it was some outside interest in the intersection of physics and golf that brought him here. Not the case.
“They said, ’You’re gonna go here,’ and I think that’s going to be the same no matter who else you talk to,” Shelley said.
Fortunately, the science tent has been one of the more popular attractions. Although earlier, during the monsoon, the tent’s main appeal was that it had a roof.
“You had a lot of people in here earlier, standing away from the weather,” Shelley said. “A lot of these stations were shut down because you had people huddled in here getting undercover. Once the rain stopped, people started coming out. What’s funny is the exhibits like mine, because you’re shooting balls and stuff like that, you see a lot of kids. But I’m seeing guys and girls 60, 70, 80 years old putting and getting into the golf simulator.”
Other than the chance to witness the 2013 Open firsthand, Shelley’s job does have some perks, such as “making fun of any bad shot that comes along, absolutely.” Which of course must mean that he has mastered the art of firing a ping pong ball out of an air cannon.
“No,” he quickly confessed. “Not at all. Absolutely not.”