A volunteer who tracks flight of golf balls


A volunteer who tracks flight of golf balls

HONOLULU (AP) The Sony Open is known for the royal palms that blow gently in the Pacific breeze, the endless ocean, the rolling surf behind the 16th green and along the 17th hole, and the lady on No. 9.

Hardly anyone knows her name, but they sure know her moves.

Liz Taga is the volunteer on the tee at the par-5 ninth hole at Waialae Country Club. She monitors the gallery movement and uses an orange paddle to show the flight of the tee shots so the marshals in the fairway have an idea where the golf ball is going. That's simple enough. Volunteers at every PGA Tour event do that.

But none like Taga.

``It's the best pre-shot routine in golf,'' said Grant Berry, the caddie for Carl Pettersson.

``She's intense,'' Scott Piercy said.

Taga keeps the orange paddle tucked between her legs as the player gets ready to tee off. When he stands over the ball, she holds the paddle over her head, not unlike a samurai warrior, the base of it nearly resting on the bill of her visor. She is a picture of concentration. Once the ball is in the air, Taga goes to work.

She takes a couple of steps forward, slowly, and then the pace quickens, like a cat ready to pounce. Her fingers work their way down the paddle as she moves the orange board slightly to the left or right, depending on the direction. Finally, she lowers the board as the ball descends and gives it a demonstrative jab toward the ground when it lands.

``My supervisor came in and told me, `It's a little dramatic, Liz.' But it's so exciting,'' she said. ``But my facial expressions, I need to tone that down. I just feel so bad when the wind starts to blow the golf balls.''

Taga isn't trying to bring attention to herself, and she opened her mouth in surprise when told all the players know who she is, even if they don't know her name. She loves the civility and respect of golf. She thinks the world of the players. And all she wanted to do was the best job she could.

That's where Bo Van Pelt comes in.

``My first time was in 2005 and Bo Van Pelt and three other pros came to the tee,'' Taga said. ``I was asking questions of my bosses, and they teach you left, center and right because we track the ball. That was basic training. But I wanted to be a good volunteer. So I said to him, `Excuse me, sir, could you show me want you want me to do.' And he said, `I'd love to.' They went back to the green and showed me every step of the way.''

Van Pelt was contacted at his home in Tulsa, Okla. He was asked about the Sony Open, and a volunteer, and that was all he needed.

``The lady on No. 9?'' he said. ``She's awesome.''

Van Pelt remembers the day Taga asked for a little guidance, mostly on where she was supposed to stand. Van Pelt used to caddie as a boy, and he recalled getting chewed out for standing behind his player in his line of sight. So he shared with Taga what he learned that day.

``I told her to stand where you're looking at my back or looking at my chest,'' Van Pelt said. ``Stand right in line with the tee markers, and no player will ever move you, and people down the fairway can see you.''

As for the moves?

``That same year on Saturday, somebody said, `Did you tell the lady at No. 9 to do that?' And I hadn't paid attention to her because she's behind me,'' Van Pelt said. `She has flair, pizzazz. I give her all the credit for that.''

Taga takes her job so seriously that she had her eyes checked to make sure she could sufficiently see the ball. But she cringes at the thought of her first day on the job during the tournament. The first player to hit, she never saw the ball. She just stood there.

``My boss came running down and said, `Liz, what are you doing?' And I told him that he hit it so fast I never saw it. He asked if I knew who that was and I didn't know anybody. They called him the `Walrus,''' she said.

It was Craig Stadler, one of the quickest players in golf.

She knows them now, particularly Van Pelt for showing her where to stand, and Bubba Watson. The Masters champion was so intrigued by Taga that he had a special paddle made for her so that she could sign it.

How popular is Taga?

Pettersson was on Facebook earlier in the week when he saw a posting from Jarrod Lyle, who played the Sony Open last year. It wasn't much longer that Lyle discovered his leukemia had returned, and he faces a life-threatening battle back home in Australia. Pettersson said Lyle had one comment about the Sony Open that made him smile.

``Is the lady on No. 9 still there?''

Quick Links

Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks, Ramon Sessions hoping for best with Tyronn Lue's health issues

As a fellow NBA head coach, Scott Brooks understands what Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers is going through. As his former teammate, Ramon Sessions knows how tough Lue is.

Both members of the Wizards shared their reactions after Monday's practice to the news Lue is stepping away from the Cavs to deal with a health issue. Both expressed hope Lue will not be out long as the NBA continues its trek towards the playoffs.

"All of our thoughts are with him," Brooks said. "You hope that it's nothing serious. Health is the most important [thing]. The game is secondary."


"Prayers out to T-Lue," said Sessions, who played with Lue in Milwaukee. "It's one of those things where you've gotta take care of yourself at the end of the day. Him stepping away is the best thing."

Lue's illness has been a mystery to doctors, according to a statement he released on the Cavaliers' website. He has dealt with chest pains and other symptoms while also struggling to sleep. The hope is that having time off will allow him to get the rest he needs.


Brooks knows firsthand how difficult it is to get sleep during the regular season as a coach.

"You just have to figure out ways to get your rest. Some days are better than others. Sometimes you think after a good win you can have a good night's rest or sometimes it's the opposite. It's just hard to get rest. You're traveling in different timezones. You are emotional after games. You eat late. There are a lot of factors that go into it. We don't have a set schedule every night. I have a good staff and I rely on them," he said.

Lue, 40, will be replaced by associate head coach Larry Drew in the interim. The Cavs happen to be in a tight playoff race with the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference battling for position.

NBC Sports Washington is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Quick Links

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

USA Today Sports Images

Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign CB Orlando Scandrick

The Redskins seem to love former Cowboys. They signed another one today.

Mike Garafolo of NFL Media is reporting that Washington has agreed to terms with cornerback Orlando Scandrick. The early numbers put the contract at up to $10 million over two years.

Scandrick, 31, has played for the Cowboys since they made him a fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft. In nine seasons in the league, Scandrick has eight interceptions and seven forced fumbles.

He has been plagued by injuries the last three years. Scandrick was out for the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL. In 2016 he missed four games with a hamstring injury and he finished last season on injured reserve with a back injury. Whether his struggles last year were due to injuries or age remains to be seen.

Scandrick joins Nosh Norman, Quinton Dunbar, Fabian Moreau, and Josh Holsey at cornerback for the Redskins. Holsey is the only natural slot corner in the group and he played very sparingly as a rookie last year. Scandrick likely will fill the slot role until Holsey is ready.

We will see what the signing costs in terms of salary cap impact when we see the details of the contract. The phrase “up to” generally means that there are incentives included in the deal so we will have to see.

In recent years, the Redskins have signed former Cowboys defensive linemen Stephen Bowen, Jason Hatcher, and Terrell McClain.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.